It is a harsh reality of aging. As we get older, our physical and cognitive capabilities decline, making it more difficult to perform various tasks. One of the activities that definitely becomes more challenging as people get into their senior years is driving. But taking away someone’s freedom to drive is a sensitive issue, and some family members wonder when the right time is to take such a step.
In Florida, elderly drivers are not required to take a new driving test. They are, however, required to pass a vision test when they are over the age of 80 and go to renew their license. This is some cause for concern as there are issues other than vision that can inhibit someone’s ability to drive safely. For example, individuals with certain conditions are susceptible to seizures, and if this were to happen while driving, it could result in catastrophic consequences.
For children of elderly drivers, it might be time for what could be a difficult conversation about whether they should continue on the road. This is especially true if they have already had some scary incidents that indicate a need to stop driving or at the very least, put on some limitations, such as daytime non-highway driving only.
How Do I Know if it is Time for a Parent to Stop Driving?
There are a number of reasons why elderly individuals might be more likely to be involved in an auto accident. For starters, the vast majority of individuals who are age 65 or older take at least one medication that could negatively impact driving performance. So, at the very least, it is important to ensure that those who are on these medications do not drive too soon after they take their most recent dosage.
As we talked about earlier, physical and cognitive decline can cause a number of issues that could impact an elderly person’s ability to drive safely. Vision impairment is one of the most common problems, but hearing impairment, muscle weakness and reduced range of motion are other problems that frequently occur with senior drivers. All of this can make it increasingly difficult for drivers to accurately judge speed and distance, see oncoming vehicles, and perform routine driving tasks such as turning the wheel and applying the brake.
All of that said, it can be very difficult to determine whether an elderly parent has gotten to the point where you need to intervene. Here are some signs that it might be time to do so:
- Driving too slowly.
- Showing signs of confusion and memory loss.
- Running stop signs and stop lights.
- Recent traffic violations resulting from poor driving.
- Recent vehicle crashes, including minor accidents such as fender benders.
- Witnessing any other examples of unsafe driving.
Talking to Elderly Parents About Driving
Studies have shown that children fear a conversation about their parent driving more than they do conversations about finances, health care decisions, and final wishes. Here are some guidelines to follow to make the conversation less difficult:
- Choose the right person to have the conversation. This should be the person your parent trusts the most, whether that is you, a sibling, or another family member or close friend. In some cases, it might be appropriate to take an intervention approach in which several people talk to them.
- Choose the appropriate time and place for the conversation. You want to have a conversation at a place in which your parent will feel most comfortable, perhaps when they are in their home. The right time to bring it up is usually after some type of incident or adverse change in health status.
- Be kind and empathetic. Be very careful about your tone when you start this conversation. You do not want your parent to feel attacked and put on the defensive. Try to avoid a confrontational tone and reassure them that you love and support them. Also reassure them that they will still be able to go out using services like Uber or Lyft, so they will be able to maintain some independence.
- Provide specific reasons for your concerns. If you are too general, your parent might be inclined to just shrug it off and insist that they are fine to drive. Instead, provide specific reasons why you think it is a good idea to stop or limit their driving. For example, mention the traffic citation they just received, or the fact that it took them an hour to find their way home the other day from the grocery store down the street.
What If My Elderly Parent Refuses to Stop Driving?
There are some instances when an older person will not give up the keys willingly. In such cases, you might need to take more drastic action. Otherwise, you could end up with a lot of regret if something were to happen when your elderly parent is driving.
Florida allows individuals to report unsafe drivers anonymously to the DMV. You do not have to be a doctor to make a report – this can be done by anyone. The DMV may in turn ask the driver to submit a medical report or undergo testing in order to keep their license. The benefit of going this route is you can report them discreetly without your parent knowing, and the DMV will be the one they will most likely put the blame on.
Auto Insurance for Elderly Parents
Auto insurance for seniors often costs more. Senior drivers as a group are more accident-prone than their middle-aged counterparts. The reason for this includes age-related changes in hearing or vision, slower reflexes, health conditions, and medications.
No matter accident severity, older drivers suffer graver injuries and more fatalities than younger people. This makes seniors dearer to treat following an injury. These factors can increase insurers’ claim costs, and people costs are passed on.
Injured in an Auto Accident in Florida? Contact a Seasoned Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or someone close to suffered injury in an accident because of an unsafe driver, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your legal rights and options. If the accident occurred in Pensacola or anywhere in the Florida Panhandle, contact Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett at 1-888-219-4561 or message us online for a free consultation and case assessment.