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Elder Law and Estate Planning Blog - Lancaster, PA

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hanging Up the Keys

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers over the age of 80 have the highest rate of fatal car crashes per mile, higher than even the teenage age group.  Vision problems, slower reactions and other effects of aging increase the risk of crashes and make it unsafe for many people to continue driving.  Additionally, most state legislature doesn't acknowledge the problem.  In Pennsylvania, licenses have to be renewed after 4 years instead of 8, but the renewal may be made via mail or internet instead of in person and requires no written test, eye exam, or on the road test.

Driving represents independence and freedom for many seniors, as well as providing them with mobility, so many politicians are hesitant to make the renewal process more stringent.  Since lawmakers tend to sidestep the issue, it's often up to families to take action when their loved one is no longer a safe driver.

If you suspect their driving skills are starting to falter, take a ride with your loved one, noting if he or she has trouble following traffic signals, maneuvering the car, remembering the route, or judging gaps in traffic.  If there is a problem, address it head on instead of waiting until after an accident and it is too late.  Here are a few simple tips on how to approach the subject:

  • Chose the most appropriate person to first bring up the matter with your loved one.
  • Unless it is clear the driver is unsafe all the time, try limiting driving instead of prohibiting it.  For example, suggest driving only during the daytime and staying off highways.
  • Investigate alternative transportation options and their costs.  You can calculate how much money your family member would save by driving less or not at all and point out that these savings can be used for other modes of transportation.
  • If an aging loved one resists giving up driving, let the physician or department of motor vehicles be the bad guys.
  • If all else fails, you may be able to gain guardianship over your parent and get a court order to prevent him or her from driving.  You could also hide the car keys or disable the car, but some families find this option to backfire.

For more information on safe senior driving, visit http://seniordriving.aaa.com/.

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