NBC Nightly News recently featured a story highlighting accident rates among elderly drivers.
It is something with which so many of us can identify: the independence that comes with driving a car. It is this feeling of freedom, however, that can often be the cause of safety concerns among elderly drivers.
NBC Nightly News broadcast a report last week entitled, “Too Old to Drive?” The segment featured some alarming statistics: according to the most recent studies, 600 drivers over age 65 are involved in an accident every day in the United States. Nine of those drivers die.
In a world in which drivers aged 65 and older are one and a half times more likely to get into an accident than middle-aged drivers, it is time to acknowledge the gravity of these facts and work to take action to prevent accidents. Americans aged 65 and over are the fastest growing age group in the country. By 2030, these citizens are expected to be 25% of the driving population. In his or her own small way, each person can work to ensure that this 25% is responsible and safe.
It is important to acknowledge that I want to avoid blanket statements; not all elderly drivers are inherently unsafe. It can be challenging, however, to gauge when and if the time comes to surrender the keys to a car— and the freedom and confidence that comes with it.
It is important to take precautions: if you have a loved one whose driving concerns you, ride along with them. Look for a slow reaction time, the driver getting lost, or trouble merging. This can help you to engage in an honest, open discussion.
Another great way to better ensure safety is stricter state restrictions in regard to elderly drivers. 33 states, including Pennsylvania, have enacted tougher driving requirements for elderly drivers. By giving a basic driving test or having people answer simple health questions, an objective, official opinion can be brought into a family’s discussion about safe driving. This is a great step to avoid accidents, and I hope that New York follows Pennsylvania’s example.
The topic of when to take the keys away is incredibly difficult. It involves so many emotions and a sense of pride and independence. I can certainly empathize with this, but I hope that the above statistics are a wake-up call and a reminder of what is truly at stake when a driver of any age gets behind a wheel. Discussing driving with an elderly loved one may be hard now, but I sincerely believe that it can save lives.
Christina Bruner Sonsire, Esq.
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, New York 14902-1338
Toll-Free: 800.ZIFFLAW (943.3529)