Hopping in the car and getting behind the wheel is often no big deal, especially in California. Most of us have a routine commute of some sort which makes driving a near-daily task.
Despite the many unfortunate and even tragic accidents on the road, there is a particular group who seem to spark debate every time they’re involved in an accident: senior drivers. Many people become concerned with senior or elderly drivers because of the risk of diminished reaction, reflex times and sometimes cognitive ability that come with aging.
Just last week in Westlake Village, an 88 year old woman died in an accident driving the wrong way on the 101 freeway when she collided with another vehicle. The driver in the other vehicle survived but sustained moderate injuries.
As common with accidents involving elderly drivers, a community conversation ensued on the driving fitness of this demographic. Many people feel individuals should be required to take a driving test when reaching a certain age, or even have their license withdrawn altogether.
However, grouping all senior citizens 65 years and older as “incapable of driving” is unfair and unreasonable for a couple of reasons. First, we know that each individual ages differently, has different health concerns, etc.; creating a blanket law would disable a wide range of able individuals.
Additionally, seniors are a rapidly-increasing segment of the population, and rescinding their driving privileges completely would place a burden on the rest of the population. As of 2012, the Public Policy Institute of California reports just the 65-69 age bracket alone was 32% of the total California population. Additionally, by 2030, the over-65 population in California alone is projected to about double within the next two decades.
There are some risk factors to look out for to make sure you or your loved one stay safe on the road. Ultimately, it should be a case-by-case basis, determined with the input of the individual’s doctor and possibly with help of other family members.
However, there are things that you as a senior or a family member of a senior can do to help monitor the fitness of the driver as they get older.
Howard Blau Law discusses different things to consider in the “golden years.”
Monitor Health Factors
Health and wellness are big factors in determining driver fitness, at any age. As we get older, however, our bodies can be more sensitive to different ailments and also requires a longer recovery time.
The DMV.org website discusses several factors to be cognizant of in considering driving fitness:
- Vision & Hearing: Make sure vision & hearing exams are up to date and corrective measures are taken if necessary.
- Joint pain or stiffness: This could make it more difficult to steer the wheel, control the car, or look around properly while driving.
- Chronic conditions: Diabetes and seizure incidents, e.g. can have a severe impact on driving. Keeping these or other chronic conditions monitored and under control is important for maintaining the safety of yourself and others on the road.
- Fatigue: Knowing yours or your loved one’s limits in regards to fatigue and driving are important.
- Stress: Stress is such a broad topic with numerous implications on health, but simply put, be sure your stress is at a manageable level so as not to exacerbate health conditions impacted by stress, e.g., heart conditions.
A doctor can also help determine the driving fitness of an individual, so ensuring yourself or a loved one at least an annual visit to the doctor is important.
Encourage Proactive Safety
The DMV.org website also outlines some recommendations to help you or a loved one become more proactive in their driving safety.
- Avoid precarious driving conditions: Try to avoid driving conditions like inclement weather or even night driving when visibility is reduced. Inclement weather also creates unsafe driving conditions with slippery roads, especially after a first rain.
- Increase your following distance: Allowing more space between your vehicle and the one in front of you provides a slight buffer that affords more time to react.
- Anticipate vs. react: Be sure to pay attention to not only what is in front of you, but down the road as well. This also gives you more time to react, if you need to prepare for a slowed or stopped traffic ahead.
- Be aware of health & medical concerns: Know the effects of any medications taken and whether it will affect driving.
Senior CarFit is an event to ensure individuals are driving a car appropriate to their size and needs.
In October and November, AAA is offering Senior CarFit events in the following locations:
Saturday, October 14, 2017: Valencia
Thursday, November 2nd, 2017: La Mesa
For more information about different state locations and dates offered, please view the complete list offered by CarFit Events, sponsored in part by AAA.
Have a serious injury and need legal advice? Contact Howard Blau.
Check out these references for further reading:
“CarFit Events.” CarFit. Retrieved 18 September 2017. https://www.car-fit.org/carfit/RegisterCarFit/
“Planning for California’s Senior Population: Technical Appendices.” PPIC. Retrieved 20 September 2017. http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/other/815LBR_appendix.pdf
“Planning for California’s Senior Population.” PPIC. Retrieved 19 September 2017. http://www.ppic.org/publication/planning-for-californias-growing-senior-population/
“Seven Senior Safety Suggestions.” DMV.org. Retrieved 19 September 2017. http://www.dmv.org/how-to-guides/senior-suggestions.php
“Wrong-way driver killed in crash on the 101 in Thousand Oaks.” Ventura County Star. Retrieved 18 September 2017. http://www.vcstar.com/story/news/local/communities/conejo-valley/2017/09/14/one-killed-crash-highway-101-thousand-oaks/668398001/