The number of licensed drivers aged 65 and older has increased by 68 percent over the last two decades. And as the enormous Baby Boomer generation continues to age into retirement, this figure is likely to continue increasing.
Unfortunately, elderly drivers can also be at greater risk of being involved in a crash. Drivers aged 70 and older have far higher crash death rates per 1,000 crashes than middle-aged drivers, with males having a higher crash death rate than females. Below, personal injury attorney Curtis C. Osborne explains the top 7 warning signs that can signal it’s time to stop driving.
Vision often grows worse with age—and while some problems, like nearsightedness and astigmatism, can be corrected with glasses, others can be more degenerative and more permanent. Conditions like macular degeneration or glaucoma may be a sign that it’s time to stop driving.
“If you or a loved one has concerns about how your eyesight may affect your driving ability, you can ask your optometrist or ophthalmologist to conduct a special screening,” says Osborne.
You should also be on the lookout for any problems with a driver’s ability to read road signs, the dashboard display, any directions on the GPS screen, or potential obstacles in the roadway. If a driver has trouble seeing these things, it can be tough to drive safely.
Increased Damage to Vehicle
Many people whose driving skills are starting to diminish may start having more frequent minor crashes—from fender-benders to parking lot door dings. If you notice that your vehicle (or a loved one’s vehicle) seems to be accumulating quite a few bumps, dents, or scratches, this could be a sign of inattention behind the wheel.
Aging can increase the risk of degenerative neurological conditions like dementia, increasing the risk of confusion behind the wheel. Some of the signs that can be red flags that it’s no longer safe to drive include:
- Stopping when there’s no stop sign
- Stopping at green lights
- Running red lights or stop signs
- Hitting other cars while parking
- Getting lost in familiar areas
- Running out of gas
Adding any other sort of memory-compromising substances to the mix can make confusion worse. For example, someone who suffers from mild confusion and gets behind the wheel after one or two drinks, even if not legally intoxicated, may be at a higher risk of being involved in a crash.
Reflexes tend to hit their peak during youth and middle age, which means that older drivers may not be able to respond to hazards as quickly as younger ones—even if they have far more driving experience. These diminishing reflexes can lead to running red lights, hitting debris or hazards in the middle of the road, or even striking other vehicles. Drivers may not be able to accelerate or brake as quickly as they need to in order to avoid an accident.
“If you’re worried about your reflexes (or those of a loved one), many state DMVs offer driving tests that can test your reflexes and response times and ensure that you’re still safe to be behind the wheel of a car,” says Osborne.
Getting Frequent Tickets
Just as more frequent accidents can be one of the biggest red flags of waning driving reflexes, so can getting traffic tickets. If you or a loved one has gotten more than a couple of tickets within the last couple of years, including parking tickets, this could be a sign that it’s time to give up the keys.
Engaging in Distracted Driving
Distracted driving can be hazardous at any age. But for older drivers, who may also be dealing with memory issues, delayed reflexes, and vision problems, driving while distracted can be even riskier. Older drivers may be more likely to zone out while thinking about other things or become distracted by signs, billboards, or other vehicles. Older drivers should take specific steps to avoid distracted driving, whether this means turning off one’s phone, taking frequent breaks, or keeping the radio turned down.
Varying From the Speed Limit
Exceeding the speed limit can increase one’s risk of a crash—but similarly, driving too slowly can pose a hazard to other vehicles on the road by interfering with the flow of traffic. Driving much too fast or too slowly can be a red flag that it’s time to give up the keys, and either type of erratic driving pattern can increase the risk of being involved in an auto accident.
If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior behind the wheel, you may wonder how you can get the compensation you deserve. By hiring a personal injury lawyer, you can seek the damages you’re owed—whether this means negotiating with the insurance company or litigating your claim in court.
An experienced personal injury attorney has the knowledge, skills, and access to resources you need to get the best outcome for your case. Your attorney should be able to guide you through the legal process, answer your questions, and represent your best interests at each stage in the process.
With over 20 years of experience helping individuals and families with their personal injury cases, attorney Curtis C. Osborne handles a wide variety of personal injury claims. Curtis lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is licensed to practice law in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.