Nobody likes to think about the possibility that they have become unable to drive safely because of the process of aging or the ailments associated with this process. In many cases, people are able to safely drive well into their golden years, while others lose their ability to do so for a variety of different reasons. Often, an elderly driver won’t even realize that they are no longer driving as safely as they once did. In other cases, the driver may recognize impairments, and might attempt to be more cautious to make up for it. Then, there are the cases where the person knows, deep down, that they should no longer drive, but is unwilling to let go of the independence or ask others for help with transportation needs.
If you are the loved one of an elderly driver in Greenville, South Carolina, you may be uncomfortable bringing up the subject – the elephant in the room if you will – not wanting to offend or insult the person you respect and care about. Yet, failing to address the issue could cause far more harm than you’d like to imagine. Even if you have no reason to believe that your loved one is struggling with driving, it is wise to have the conversation, to make sure that they still feel comfortable behind the wheel, and to take the time to travel with them, to observe for yourself whether or not their driving skills are still safe. When your loved one does become unable to drive, you will need to be there to help, to provide transportation, so that they don’t end up restricted to their home and unable to get to the grocery store, to doctor’s appointments, etc.
How Do You Know When Your Loved One is Unsafe to Drive?
There is no set age at which a person becomes unable to drive. This is a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. It means that as long as your loved one is capable of driving safely, there is no reason to stop them from doing so, based on a specific age restriction. Yet, it also means that it can be very challenging to determine whether or not someone’s age and age related afflictions are interfering with their driving ability.
The important thing here is to be consistently there for your loved one as they age. Be aware of their physical condition, their mental condition, and their emotional condition. Know if they are taking prescriptions that could impair driving or if they have an illness that could interfere. For some people, conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease will slowly and steadily advance to the point where driving becomes unsafe. For others, medications will cause drowsiness or other side effects that impair their ability to drive safely. Then, there are the physical conditions, like failing eyesight or loss of motor function that could become an issue. Every person and every situation is different, and you simply have to make a point of being there in a way that allows you to have insight into their wellness and capabilities. This is not only important when it comes to driving, but also when it comes to your loved one’s ability to care for themselves.
There is no set age that makes driving unsafe, but rather, a range of conditions and impairments that could affect anyone, at any age, but are greater risks for the elderly. Statistics show that accidents become more likely for those who are 65 or older and that by 80 years old, a person reaches the same risk level of a fatal auto accident as new teen drivers (which is the group at greatest risk of being killed in an auto accident). Still, a person who is 80 years old could be a perfectly safe driver, and you should never assume that age indicates impairment. Rather, you should be aware that age can result in impairment, and be active in the life of your elderly family members and friends. Communicate with others in their support system, as well, but don’t leave your loved one out of the conversation. It is important to avoid treating someone like a child because they are aging. You can show respect and try to have an open conversation, even though it may be challenging and might result in hard feelings. The best thing you can do is to be there for those you care about and pay attention to the effects of aging.
What Risks Should You Watch Out for As Drivers Age?
Because the risks associated with aging drivers are not the same for everyone, you need to be aware of what risks you should watch out for. The person’s physical health, mental health, various impairments, and different prescription medications are all going to be relevant in determining whether or not your loved one is still a safe driver. Your loved one may give you permission to discuss their health with their physician or go with them to doctor’s appointments, so that you will know what their restrictions are.
When it comes to impairments in vision or hearing, these issues might be effectively treated so that your loved one can still drive safely. If they cannot be managed to a degree that ensures safe driving capabilities, then this may be a good time to discuss alternatives to driving. If the person is taking prescription medications that have side effects that would impair driving, then you should be aware of this and start the conversation. You can find out about the effects of prescriptions from the pharmacist, from the paperwork that comes with the medication, or from the person’s doctor, if you have their permission. In some cases, your loved one might require more intervention than this, and you might have power of attorney to address their physical and mental wellbeing. It is challenging to take on the role of caretaker for someone who used to provide care for you, but this is all the more reason to do so when it is necessary.
Make Sure that Your Loved One is a Safe Driver as They Age
The best way to make sure that your loved one is still a safe driver as they age is to be a regular presence in their life, be aware of their mental health and physical health, and travel with them as they drive, watching out for any unsafe or even overly cautious driving behaviors. Even being overly cautious could alert you to the fact that your loved one doesn’t feel as safe behind the wheel as they once did.
This is a difficult issue for most children of aging parents: it is equally important to acknowledge that aging doesn’t automatically make someone an unsafe driver, but you should intervene if you have good cause.
Call an experienced Greenville, SC car accident lawyer today for help with your auto accident injury claim.