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How Old is Too Old to Drive?

by  on  Accident Attorney

In a previous blog, Levine Law discussed how to decide when someone you love is no longer able to live alone or on their own. The next hardest decision–and toughest conversation–is determining when someone you love should no longer drive.  Many of us see driving as being synonymous with independence. Since our communities are often spread out over miles, cars have become a way to stay connected with different parts of one’s living area.  Asking a senior to surrender his or her car keys and vehicle can add to the senior’s growing feeling of dependency.  In light of all of this, should we ask, or demand, that seniors forfeit their driving privileges? If so, when and under what circumstances?

The Statistics

Your Denver accident attorney points out that driving is a privilege, not a right.  Therefore, if a driver poses a danger to himself or others, that privilege can be revoked.  As a class, senior drivers constitute 9 percent of the population but account for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities and 17 percent of all pedestrian fatalities, according to National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration Statistics.  As drivers continue to age, the accident rate worsens. A report by Carnegie Mellon University and AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found the rate of deaths involving drivers ages 75-84 is the same as for teen drivers. After age 85, vehicular fatality rates jump to four times that of teens.

It is true that seniors have a lot of experience driving–approximately 50 years.  They also tend not to speed or take risks and are more likely to wear their seat belts.  However, these safety factors are offset by many seniors’ declining sensory functions (vision and hearing), decreased physical abilities (motor skills and reflexes) and reduced cognition (from old age or medical conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or dementia).  Sometimes, these issues and the risk they present can be minimized by issuing a license with restrictions, such that the driver can only drive a certain distance from home or a certain number of miles or hours during specific hours of the day.  The restrictions can be mandated by law or by an insurance provider.

When Should the Conversation Take Place?

How do you know when to start the conversation about driving with an older parent, grandparent or loved one?  Your Denver accident attorney suggests that you consider the following signs when trying to determine whether a senior may need to stop driving: 

(1)  The senior exhibits confusion while driving somewhere.

(2)  The senior has two or more accidents in a short period of time.

(3)  The senior thinks the speed limit is too high.

(4)  Others do not feel comfortable riding in the senior’s car. 

Another helpful guide is the set of laws put in place by Colorado for older drivers. Drivers 61 years of age and over must renew their license every 5 years (rather than the 10-year renewal period for younger drivers).  Drivers 66 years of age and over cannot renew their license online and must have their vision tested during the renewal process.  Finally, Colorado does encourage and accept written reports about potentially unsafe drivers from law enforcement, courts, physicians and close relatives.

If you would like more information about determining how old is too old for driving purposes, or if you have been in an accident with an older driver, contact Jordan Levine at Levine Law.