Your elderly parent is likely proud of the fact that he or she still has a driver's license. Dad feels more independent knowing that he can drive himself to the store whenever he needs. Mom is hesitant to relinquish the choice to be able to visit a friend whenever she feels like it without needing to ask for a ride. Driving helps older adults feel more autonomous. As an added bonus, your elderly parent having a driver's license probably means more freedom for you as well.
However, as age increases, so does the risk of injury or even death in an automobile crash. With over 40 million drivers on the road over the age of 65 - an increase of 50 percent since 1999 -- this can be a worrying fact for adult children with aging parents.
In 2014 alone, there were more than 236,000 older adults injured in automobile accidents, and 5,700 more died as a result of a car crash. The likelihood of crashing increases for the elderly, in many cases due in part to age-related declines in cognitive functions like reasoning and memory, as well as physical changes such as deteriorating vision and reaction times. The good news is that there are some steps you can encourage your older loved one to take that will help him or her drive more safely.
Consider discussing this important issue with your elderly parents or loved ones, and encouraging them to:
- Ask their doctor or pharmacist whether any of their medications – both over-the-counter and prescription – have any dangerous side effects or interactions that could affect their driving ability
- Always wear their glasses if necessary, and have an optometrist check their eyes at least once a year
- Drive at the safest times, in well-lit areas during clear weather and during the day, whenever possible
- Leave a substantial distance between their car and the one they're following
- Avoid distractions like eating, talking or texting on a cell phone, or even listening to the radio at high volume
Additionally, your elderly loved one might find it helpful to exercise regularly if possible, which will help him or her increase or maintain flexibility and strength. Moreover, while he or she may enjoy driving, it might also be an enjoyable option to ride with a friend. If your older loved one does not want to relinquish his or her driver's license but occasionally feels less able to drive safely, another alternative to consider at those times is public transit.
Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that your elderly parent could have been doing everything right and still ended up in a severe automobile accident due to someone else's fault or negligence. If this is the case, you may find it beneficial to contact a Dallas area lawyer who has experience not just in motor vehicle accidents, but also in working with older adults and with cases involving the elderly.