Driving requires constant attention. When we get older, sometimes we can’t focus like we used to. While driving allows senior citizens independence, it’s not always safe. There are signs that your loved one’s health could be declining that directly affect their driving abilities. Even if they don’t realize they’re dangerous behind the wheel, they could get into a car accident and injure themselves and others.
According to Consumer Reports, about 14 million Americans a year are in car accidents caused by senior citizens. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that nearly 300,000 people over 65 years of age were injured or killed in a car crash in 2016. Those high numbers prove the need for caution when it comes to senior citizens driving.
Signs of Declined Driving Skills
While senior citizens are dangerous to others when they’re driving, they are actually dangers mostly to themselves. Since they tend to have weaker and more frail bodies, older people are more at risk of dying in a car accident. People 65 and older have driving fatality rates 17 times higher than other adults, according to AAA.
To minimize car crashes, it’s best to look after senior citizens for signs of health risks that could cause accidents. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) lists health risks that affect driving. Here are some of those concerns to look out for in your older loved one:
- Physical ability. 80% of seniors have arthritis which makes moving joints painful, as noted by the same AAA article as above. Pain and stiffness from arthritis makes it hard to press the pedal or move the wheel, and it can also make it harder to turn the head. Along with arthritis, older people’s muscles can become weaker more easily. Even though driving doesn’t require a lot of strength, for senior citizens, even the smallest movement can require a tiring amount of exertion.
- Eyesight. You don’t have to be a senior citizen to have poor vision. But as we age, eyesight can worsen naturally or eye diseases, like cataracts and glaucoma, can accelerate the decline. Even sunlight, or lack thereof, can greatly affect people with poor eyesight. Since driving mostly relies on sight, senior citizens with bad vision could hit objects, other drivers, and pedestrians, or completely ignore traffic signals and signs.
- Hearing. If a person partially or completely loses their hearing, they are a safety hazard on the road. Without hearing, drivers won’t be alerted by sirens or horns of other cars. On top of that, they won’t be able to hear any sounds their own car is making.
- Motor skills. Anything that affects the brain can affect motor skills. So age, Parkinson’s disease, and strokes can all make senior citizens dangerous behind the wheel because reflexes and reaction times could slow. Along with motor skills, decision-making can also be affected, causing drivers to make questionable or dangerous decisions while driving.
- Memory. Senior citizens with Alzheimer’s and dementia might forget what they’re doing or where they’re going while in the car. The worst part is these people might not even realize that they’re driving over the line, too fast, or the wrong way down a street. Not only are these people dangers to other drivers, but they are to themselves as well if they get lost and don’t know how to get home.
- Medications. Some medications can affect all of the above. Senior citizens tend to be on many medications at once, so interactions can also cause side effects that make driving dangerous.
How to Keep Your Loved One from Driving
When you’ve seen too many red flags from your loved one driving, you might want to talk to them about your concerns. Some signs that prove difficulty driving are unexplained dents on the car, traffic tickets, complaints about normal driving behaviors of others, or any of the above health issues might be signs that your loved one is hazardous behind the wheel.
Even if there hasn’t been an accident, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the warning signs until one happens. Get ahead of the situation by starting a conversation with your loved one. When speaking with them, keep a gentle tone, use “I” rather than “you” statements, and focus on their driving skills, not their age.
If you can’t get through to them through your conversation, you could speak with their doctor about your concerns. That way, their doctor could take your input into consideration when examining them at their next appointment, and possibly decide to take their license away. This takes the anger off of you and puts the responsibility on a medical professional who has the authority to make that decision.
Corban Gunn Will Fight for You
If you’ve been in a car accident that was caused by a senior citizen, you could have serious damages. You deserve to be compensated for your injuries, property damage, and emotional trauma from the collision. Corban Gunn will work to get you justice. Contact us today for a free consultation so you can start building your case.