How Old is Too Old to Drive?

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Members of the “sandwich generation” are increasingly having to make tough decisions about their parents’ independence, abilities, and care. At some point, those choices may include taking away a parent’s driver’s license. But how soon should that happen? When is a person too old to drive?

A recent fatal accident in Livonia, Michigan, raises the question: how old is too old to drive? On Monday, January 4, 2016, in the middle of the afternoon, 80 year old Joseph Sito veered suddenly into oncoming traffic, striking a Ford Focus coming the other way. In that vehicle, 67 year old Suzanne Wernette-Robb was driving her 88 year old mother, Bernadine Karby home from running errands.

All three were killed. Five other vehicles were also involved in the crash, though no other drivers were seriously injured. Police are still investigating Sito’s sudden course change. His age, along with the ages of the two other victims of this fatal auto accident, raises the question of whether he was too old to drive.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2012 (the most recent data available), there were 36 million licensed drivers ages 65 and up nationwide. Older adults run a greater risk of being injured or killed in an auto accident. Across the U.S., 15 older adults are killed and 586 are injured daily in car crashes.

But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t drive. The increase in injury has more to do with medical complications and susceptibility to injury than their younger counter parts, not a higher chance of being in an accident. Able-bodied elderly citizens who are able to continue driving maintain independence and mobility without having to rely on others.

So how can you decide when your loved one is too old to drive? The American Medical Association (AMA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommend watching for:

  • Vision Problems;
  • Loss Of Coordination;
  • Difficulty With Attention, Memory, And Comprehension; Or
  • Medications That Impair Driving (Including Many Pain Prescriptions).
  • For older drivers who are looking to keep their license, the CDC recommends:
  • Regular Strength And Flexibility Exercises;
  • Talking To Doctors About Medicines To Minimize Side Effects And Complications;
  • Annual Eye Exams;
  • Limiting Driving To Daytime And Good Weather;
  • Planning Your Route Ahead Of Time And Choosing Well-Lit Routes With Well-Regulated Intersections;
  • Leaving More Distance Between You And The Vehicle You Are Following; And
  • Avoiding Distracted Driving.

There is no one right answer to the question “how old is too to drive?” The timing will depend on your loved one’s physical and cognitive health. It is important for older drivers to maintain regular doctor visits, and to drive regularly with passengers who can evaluate their response times and driving skills. When it is time, older adults can rely on taxis, buses, Uber and Lyft, and friends and family to take them safely where they need to go.

David Christensen is an auto accident attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He represents the families in fatal car crashes in wrongful death actions, making sure they get the support they need. If you have lost a loved one, contact Christensen Law today to schedule a consultation.