It seems like every week we read about older drivers causing accidents. In many of these cases, we often wonder why someone doesn’t take their car keys before an accident occurs again. In 2010, a major story in Chicago grabbed the headlines and struck up the debate about when to take keys away from the elderly when an 86-year-old driver killed three teenage cyclists.
There are more than 20 million drivers over the age of 69 on the roads in the United States. In Illinois, there are over 800,000 residents over the age of 70 with a driver’s license, including several over the age of 100. The Pew Research Center has found that around 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day for the next two decades. Many of these people do not live near family members and live in areas that are not well served by public transportation. This means their only way to get to doctor appointments and buy food is driving their vehicle.
As we advance in age, our driving skills naturally deteriorate, and even these simple errands can turn deadly. In 2012, Consumer Reports found that drivers at least 80 years old are 5-1/2 times as likely to be involved in a fatal car accident than middle-aged drivers. This is especially troublesome in relation to motorcycle accidents and pedestrian accidents, in which elderly drivers are found to be disproportionately responsible. As Chicago is one of the most pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly cities in the country, there is reason for concern.
Talking to an Aging Parent
How do you know when you should sit down with your aging parent and discuss giving up the car keys? The best time, of course, is before something happens. This way, you can gradually transition your parent to another means of transportation without having to hide their car keys or take them away.
If possible, ride with your parent on trips to the store, or ask a neighbor to watch their driving habits. Unexplained damage to the car, citations or frequent minor fender-benders are signs that the time for your parent to stop driving is approaching quickly.
It’s also important to look for signs that driving is becoming physically challenging for your parent. If they are slow to get in and out of the car, they probably have trouble maneuvering while driving as well. Decreased muscle strength and arthritis can make it difficult to turn easily, and you may find that your parent relies completely on the mirrors to look for obstacles. If you notice they have difficulty moving their foot from the brake to the accelerator, it may increase the chances that they will confuse the pedals. This is a common cause of many accidents involving aging drivers.
Some aging parents will also get lost often, miss turns or traffic lights. This is a sign their vision may be worsening. Older drivers are also more likely to have decreased focus, a narrower field of vision, shortened depth perception and trouble with night-time glare than young drivers.
There are other signs to watch for as well. Your parent may begin to avoid driving at a certain time of day, or avoid certain routes. They may also change their routines to make fewer left-hand turns or take the back roads to avoid busy roadways. These are signs they are starting to compensate for a lack of confidence in their ability to drive safely.
It’s not uncommon for older drivers to have difficulty even admitting their driving skills are worsening, much less that it’s time to stop driving. Aging is certainly not easy on anyone, but it’s important to have this discussion if you notice these signs before someone gets hurts.
How to Help
There are many ways you can help an older driver maintain their driving privileges without endangering anyone. Start by reviewing the specifications of their vehicle with them. As their needs change, they may be able to continue driving safely by switching to a vehicle with larger doors and higher seats. A new vehicle with larger controls, automatic braking and blind-spot detection mirrors may also help.
Illinois also attempts to keep older drivers safe by restricting renewals at a certain point. Drivers between 69 and 80 may renew their license for 4 years; drivers between 81 and 86 may renew their license for 2 years; after 87 years, the license must be renewed annually.
Illinois drivers who are 73 and younger may also opt for the Safe Driver Renewal. Drivers who are 74 and older must renew their license in person and pass a vision test. Drivers must also take a written knowledge test every eight years, unless they have no violations. For seniors whose driving record indicates an accident, a written and/or driving test will be necessary. Illinois also requires drivers over the age of 75 to take a road test at renewal.
AAA and AARP provide education courses for aging drivers, although the driver must be willing to register on their own. Both also offer refresher courses. Illinois provides the Super Seniors Program to help seniors improve their driving skills. This voluntary program for driver’s license renewal includes classroom instruction and a vision screening exam with a review of safe driving techniques.
Contact Mike Agruss Law
If you know an older driver who was involved in a car accident, contact Mike Agruss Law, for a free consultation. A Chicago car accident attorney representing individuals and families who have suffered an injury or loss due to an accident. Mike Agruss Law, will handle your personal injury case quickly, will advise you every step of the way, and will not hesitate to go to trial for you.
Lastly, Mike Agruss Law, does not get paid attorney’s fees unless we win your case. Our no-fee promise is that simple. Therefore, you have nothing to risk when you hire us–just the opportunity to seek justice.