The CDC reports that the death toll from car accidents is highest for drivers 75 and older. A person’s ability to drive safely decreases with age due to vision loss, cognitive decline, and other physical changes. Additionally, the death rate per thousand crashes is higher for drivers aged 70 and up compared to drivers of middle age (aged 35-54).
By 2025, drivers 65 and older will make up 25% of the total population, up from 15% in 2001, according to research by the RAND Corporation. However, statistics show that older drivers are more and less dangerous than other age groups. The RAND study found that younger drivers pose more risk than the elderly but simply because they drive farther for longer.
Another interesting finding from the study is that just 7% of all two-car accidents are caused by drivers 65 and older, despite accounting for 15% of all licensed drivers. Only 13% of licensed drivers are under the age of 25, but they are responsible for 43% of all accidents involving two vehicles.
That being said, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that the number of fatal collisions per 100 million vehicle miles increased steadily, beginning around age 70 and reaching a maximum for drivers 85 and older. As of 2018, the CDC reports every day, and there are more than 20 fatalities and about 700 injuries involving drivers aged 65 and up.
In California, when an accident occurs while the at-fault driver is using the vehicle with the owner’s authorization, the owner is responsible for any damages that result. So if your parents are using your car, you may be responsible. Likewise, lending a car that the owner knows is defective or has a broken part despite knowing that doing so puts the borrower at risk is an act of independent negligence. Otherwise, your parents and their insurance will bear the responsibility.
Avoid lending your elderly relative your car, and consider reporting any safety concerns to the state licensing agency if you have reason to believe they are no longer a safe driver. A responsible adults should intervene if they learn their elderly parent is no longer a safe driver. You should not give your car to an elderly relative who can not drive safely due to age or health issues like dementia or visual loss, for example. If an elderly person causes an accident while driving a car they were loaned or given, the owner may be held accountable for negligent entrustment in most states.
Additionally, most state licensing agencies offer an office where family members or doctors can submit their concerns about a risky old driver. The department may look into the matter, and the senior citizen driver may be required to pass a road exam. As of now, though, you are not liable for a parent’s accident unless you fail to report or prevent them from driving if you know they are a danger.
Doctors have limited options in California for preventing an elderly person from driving. When renewing their license, elderly drivers may be required to pass a vision exam in several states. In most cases, save the vision exam, there are no additional health checks for drivers aged 70 and up.
In the state of California, doctors are obligated to notify the local health department whenever they diagnose a patient with a disorder marked by lapses in awareness, Alzheimer’s disease, or another condition that impairs driving. In turn, the health department must send the information to the DMV, which may then choose to conduct a driving test to verify the applicant’s fitness to operate a motor vehicle safely.
If an individual cannot pass a driving test without assistance, the DMV may impose certain limits on their driving privileges. Additionally, members of the senior’s family can request an unsafe driver test from the DMV if they have reason to believe their loved one is no longer physically or mentally capable of operating a motor vehicle safely. Furthermore, the senior must immediately notify the DMV of any diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, that may make driving risky.
Some elderly may be unwilling to give up driving, putting themselves and others at risk; however, many do so voluntarily when they detect warning signs of impaired mobility, such as an inability to park or change lanes. If the senior’s cognitive impairment makes it so that they cannot assess the risk they pose, some caregivers may take drastic measures such as taking away the automobile keys or even selling or immobilizing the vehicle.
However, a Power of Attorney will not help you to prevent your parent from driving; instead, you will need a conservatorship. In California, conservatorship is the legal term for guardianship of an adult. A conservatorship is the legal process by which one adult is given care by another.
There are specific legal procedures that must be followed to establish a conservatorship. The probate court can be petitioned by a relative or friend who believes an adult in their care needs a conservatorship. There are two types of conservatorships you can apply for: conservator of the person or conservator of the estate, and to stop parents from driving, you need conservator of the person.
Despite the fact that many fatal car accidents can be attributed to aging drivers, California does not place an age restriction on the privilege to operate a motor vehicle. However, all drivers over the age of 70 must renew their licenses in person and take a visual and written test to do so. In addition, if a family member or doctor wants a senior citizen’s driving abilities evaluated because of a medical condition, that person’s license may be suspended until the DMV receives the results.
In the early stages of dementia, most people are still able to operate a motor vehicle safely. Age-related issues include things like forgetting to switch lanes for a turn, having trouble keeping both eyes on the road and ears glued to the radio, and slowing down or stopping unexpectedly. Memory issues include the inability to recall recent events, repeating comments or queries, and inability to identify time or complete normal duties.
Of course, not every senile motorist is unsafe behind the wheel. Many people continue to drive without incident well into their 90s. Pay attention, though; if you see any signs of worry in your parent’s driving, it’s time to take action. Taking the risk of continuing to let them drive could end up being the difference between life and death for them or someone else.
It can be difficult to convince someone to give up their sense of autonomy. Start with communication and offer someone else to be their chauffeur or offer assistance. Also, consider having a doctor, lawyer, or someone else talk to them, as they may be more receptive to the opinions of people they do not know personally.
Next, respect your parent’s privacy and try to understand how they feel, as understanding can help you handle the situation tactfully. You also have the option of reporting your parent to the DMV. In your letter, explain why you feel compelled to make a complaint and provide the appropriate authorities with a means of contacting your parent or loved one. If the individual you are worried about is incapable of comprehending the risk, he poses to himself and others, you may need to take drastic measures, such as deactivating the vehicle or hiding the car keys.
It is never easy to deliver unpleasant news. Hearing that you are no longer allowed to drive is devastating news for an older citizen. Nonetheless, doing nothing puts others in danger as their driving habits deteriorate. It is hard enough to decide that it is time to take the keys away; it is even tougher to tell a loved one that you have made that decision.
Driving is a symbol of freedom, and just dropping the bomb out of the blue may make the situation worse. Start having the conversation when the symptoms are still minor. You can bring up some driving troubles you have seen them having or a recent diagnostic that could indicate future problems and then suggest that they stop driving altogether.
If you are still in a position where you can negotiate safely, such as our recommendations above to limit your parents driving to daylight hours, go ahead. It is time to be firm if you are worried about a loved one’s safety on the road without guilt, as you are not responsible for aging. Finally, everyone will have to make sacrifices if their parents lose their car. Assure them that they will still be able to attend their regular activities, such as visiting a book club or going grocery shopping.
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