Driving Issues With the Elderly

January 13, 2020

As we age, we become more concerned with the safety of completing daily tasks. Driving is one of those tasks that many seniors rely on to maintain a sense of independence. However, there may be good reason to encourage a senior to give up driving for their own safety. As we age, the skills necessary to drive safely often decline. Aging brings challenges, including diminished vision, hearing, reflexes, reaction time, and cognitive function. Although seniors are safe drivers compared to other age groups, they are also the most likely to suffer a fatal crash per mile driven. Fatal crash rates increase significantly for those aged 70 to 74 and are highest among those over 85. According to AAA, seniors are outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of seven to 10 years.

Driving Safely

There are steps that seniors can take to reduce their risk of crashes. These include:

  • Having regular eye exams and keeping eyeglass prescriptions current
  • Ensuring medicines are evaluated by a physician
  • Exercising regularly to maintain physical strength and flexibility
  • Maintaining a safe driving distance from the car in front
  • Avoiding distractions, such using the cell phone
  • Avoiding driving in bad weather, at night, or when tired

It is important to ensure that the car is properly maintained. Pay special attention to the brakes, windshield wipers, and tire pressure. Upgrading to a newer car with added safety features, such as automatic braking, can go a long way to help avoid crashes. Taking a refresher course, such as defensive driving, can help keep safe driving skills fresh in the driver’s mind.

Signs of a Problem

If you have an elderly parent, relative, or friend who is still driving, you may wonder if they can continue to drive safely. Signs of problems include:

  • Driving at inappropriate speeds
  • Getting lost frequently
  • Braking unnecessarily

If you become aware of these problems, a conversation may be necessary. Sometimes hearing from a trusted doctor or grandchild makes it easier for the senior to listen. Another alternative is to seek the help of a geriatric care manager who can prepare an independent assessment of the senior’s needs, including whether continued driving is advisable.

No matter who delivers the message, it is important that they be thoughtful of the sensitive nature of the discussion, and explain the primary concern is for the senior’s safety and wellbeing. They should determine whether the senior has noticed the observed behavior. It may be useful to arrange for an independent driving evaluation from the local motor vehicle agency to boost awareness.

Unfortunately, it may be necessary to restrict access to a vehicle if the senior can no longer drive safely and refuses to stop driving. Fortunately, with easy access to ride sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, losing or giving up driving privileges can be a decision that results in the senior maintaining a sense of independence while also staying safe.

Brooklyn Elder Law Lawyers at Korsinsky & Klein, LLP Advise Clients on Elder Care Issues

If you require assistance with an elder care issue, contact one of our experienced Brooklyn elder law lawyers at Korsinsky & Klein, LLP. Call us at 212-495-8133 or complete an online form for an initial consultation. Located in Brooklyn, New York, and Lakewood, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Manhattan, Long Island, and Westchester, New York.