When Should an Aging Family Member Stop Driving?

Posted on behalf of RizkLaw on Dec 04, 2020 in Auto Accident

elderly woman hands on steering wheelThe natural aging process can make it harder for people to safely operate a car, increasing their chance of an getting into a serious car accident. For some people, continuing to drive at an advanced age puts themselves and others at risk for serious or life-threatening injuries.

However, before asking an older family member to consider handing over their car keys for good, it is important to understand what a difficult decision that is for them to make.

Rizk Law shares some tips and resources that to help you decide when and how to discuss this issue with a loved one.

Early Warning Signs

It is difficult to understand another’s personal experience when driving, but there are early warning signs that may be visible to others when you ride with them. There are also some questions that can help determine whether another’s driving skills – or your own – are in decline:

  • Do you often feel nervous or even afraid while driving?
  • Do you frequently find yourself getting lost?
  • Do you struggle to stay in your lane when driving?
  • Is it common for you to get scratches or other car dings from scraping fences, other cars, etc.
  • Is it getting more difficult to see road signs or pavement markings?
  • Has your reaction time to unexpected situations slowed? – such as braking to avoid a fender bender
  • Are you required to take medication that blurs your vision or makes you sleepy or dizzy?
  • Is it harder for you to judge gaps between cars or safe turning distances?
  • Are you able to easily and quickly turn your head to check for cars around you?
  • Is your peripheral vision good – can you see on either side of you when looking straight ahead?
  • Do friends or relatives often say they do not want to ride with you when you drive?
  • Have you had frequent “near misses” for an accident lately?
  • Are other drivers honking at you in anger for driving too slowly or making other mistakes on the road?

Answering these questions honestly is difficult, particularly for an older driver. When bringing up this topic with an elderly family member, it is important to remember that for them, this means giving up much of their independence.

What Other Factors May Impede Driving Skills?

In addition to a decline in vision, reaction time and physical changes, the onset of some medical conditions may also make it unsafe for an older adult to continue driving:

  • Cataracts
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Diabetes, when complicated by hypoglycemia
  • Severe forms of arthritis
  • Loss of hearing
  • And more

A thorough medical examination may help further clarify whether you or a family member should consider giving up driving. There are also various driver screening measures that you can take advantage of to get an objective opinion about driving abilities. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) even offers an online Fitness-to-Drive Screening to get a more private initial assessment.

Dangers of Continuing to Drive When You No Longer Should

According to recent research from Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), older drivers may be especially at risk for causing a fatal accident:

  • On dark roads where there are no streetlights
  • At night, dawn, dusk or other times when visibility is low
  • In bad weather, such as rain, snow or icy conditions
  • At any intersection

ODOT reports that about 40 percent of fatal accidents caused by elderly drivers happen at intersections.

It is critical to help an aging parent, friend or family member understand that if they continue to drive, they are putting themselves and others at risk for a serious or fatal accident. Additionally, if they cause an accident, they may be held liable for the damages.

Making a Smart Transition

When there is no other alternative but to give up the car keys, there are steps that can help make the transition a little smoother:

  • Have the conversation in a private place, where it is quiet
  • Schedule a time when your family member is well-rested and calm
  • Avoid being confrontational and listen compassionately to your family member’s fears and concerns – it is unrealistic to expect an immediate and positive response
  • Help your aging family member to research and get the facts
  • Work together to create a plan and discuss alternatives

When an aging family member feels that he or she is being heard and has a say in transitioning to a non-driving status, he or she may feel less threatened by the decision.

Reaching Out for Legal Help When Injured in an Accident

At Rizk Law, we are available to provide legal help when you have been injured in a car accident caused by another’s negligence.

Contact our firm anytime, day or night, to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced car accident lawyers in Portland. This is an excellent opportunity to learn if you may have legal options for recovering compensation for your injuries and other losses.

There is no obligation to hire our firm and no upfront costs if we represent you. We do not get paid until you do.