Senior driving is something I’ve blogged on before and I continue to bring up the issue because our elderly population here in Florida is rapidly growing. We need to address the growing concern with the car accidents caused by our aging population. Caring.com has recently released the results of a study on senior driving behavior, and the results are alarming.
The study, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, reveals that elderly drivers were responsible for as many as 14 million traffic incidents in the past 12 months. Interestingly, those who are 65 and over are most likely to consider elderly drivers more of a danger on the road than drunk drivers. Even though they’re more aware than any other group that continuing to drive becomes increasingly hazardous as they age, it’s not always clear to either their families or them when that time has come.
The one caveat to this study is that the statistics included incidents that occurred without injury, but even so, 14 million per year is a very high number.
Caring.com’s CEO Andy Cohen, when interviewed about this study, found that doctors rarely want to get involved in the decision making process, potentially to prevent legal liability issues, so even though 21% of elderly drivers would like their doctors to tell them when it’s time to give up the keys, the decision almost always falls on family members to make the decision.
Laws that govern how often senior citizens need to to be retested in order to keep their drivers licenses also vary widely from state to state. Some require it every year, while others only require it every five years. Only 10% of seniors want the government telling them when they have to give up the keys, but driving ability can drop drastically in just a few years.
He also believes that modern safety technology can help elderly drivers hold onto their keys longer. They may not necessarily trust the new features they’ve never used before, but for a lot of older drivers, if they have to choose between upgrading their car or giving up driving all together, they’ll choose the new car. It isn’t wise to encourage someone who truly shouldn’t be driving to keep doing so even if they have a brand new car, but having that safety net in place can definitely prolong the amount of time it’s safe for a lot of people to drive.
When adult children feel like it’s gotten to the point that they have to have the talk with their parents about giving up the keys for good, it’s important that they know it’s normal to be uncomfortable bringing it up. The best thing to do, though, is to present concerns in a loving and thoughtful way and encourage them to make the decision to stop driving for themselves.
Talking to elderly parents about driving is definitely intimidating, but the consequences of not bringing it up are serious. Elderly drivers might not get as much attention as distracted drivers or drunk drivers, but they’re certainly still dangerous. Having a hard conversation with your parents is never fun, but for their sake and for the sake of the other people they may injure, it’s worth it.