Most of us know that teenagers present an increased risk for driving crashes, but many people aren’t aware that elderly drivers are just as likely to have an accident as their adolescent counterparts.
Studies show that accident rates begin to escalate as soon as drivers turn 65, which means that the burgeoning increase of aging Baby Boomers has dire repercussions for road safety. By 2030, when 71 million Americans will be over the age of 65, it’s expected that this demographic will cause 25% of all auto related fatalities. People who get behind the wheel from age 75 to 84 have roughly the same accident rate as teenagers, but because their bodies are frailer, their fatality rate is four times as high.
The decrease in driving ability as we age is attributed to poor vision, slower reflexes, a decrease in motor skills and memory loss. Medications can also impair driving skills, because they often cause drowsiness and an inability to focus. Reduced hearing ability as we age means that sirens and car horns often go unnoticed. Eye diseases like glaucoma can reduce peripheral vision and the ability to see at night.
Assessing our driving ability as we age is the responsible thing to do, but many people fear that giving up their car keys will severely impact their freedom and refuse to do so. Some elders won’t admit that their driving ability is impaired, even after an accident. If you or someone you love is reaching an advanced age and is still behind the wheel, you should take precautionary steps to avoid becoming another accident statistic. Here are some warning indicators of driving impairment:
- Difficulty reading street signs.
- Drifting across lanes.
- Bumping up against or running over curbs.
- Driving too slowly for traffic conditions.
- Failure to use turn signals.
- Failure to notice other cars, bicycles or pedestrians.
- Dents, dings and scrapes on the vehicle.
If you have an elderly loved one who exhibits some of the above signs, it might be a struggle to get them to give up their car keys. One step you can take is to have them tested at your local motor vehicle department. If they fail the vision or driving test, they will have to surrender their driver’s license on the spot. Another way to get them to stop driving is to stage an intervention with family and close friends to talk with them about your safety concerns. Always offer to arrange for alternative transportation so they don’t feel stranded. If none of the above gets them to relinquish their driving privileges, you might have to force the issue by taking away their car keys or vehicle. No one wants to have a confrontation of this kind with an elderly loved one, but if they’ve become a danger to themselves or others every time they get behind the wheel, it’s the responsible thing to do to prevent a driving disaster.