The ability to safely operate a motor vehicle diminishes with age, and many children of senior drivers struggle with the decision to restrict a parent’s driving privileges.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) reports that per mile driven, fatal crash rates increase noticeably starting at age 70 and are highest among drivers age 85 and older, largely due to the susceptibility to injury and medical complications of older drivers.
The problem is likely to get worse because the older population in the U.S. is growing. Ranking 4th in the U.S. in percentage of total population that is age 65 or older, Pennsylvania will be particularly impacted. Unfortunately, most people wait until after a car crash to consider the driving abilities of older adults, according to the American Automobile Association
Senior Citizen Driving Difficulties
Many ailments that commonly afflict the elderly compromise driving capabilities. The National Institute on Aging
cites arthritis as one prevalent disease that has a negative impact on safe driving. Stiff joints can make it harder for a driver to turn his head, quickly turn a steering wheel, and brake safely.
Diminishing eyesight is also problematic, especially when it affects peripheral vision and night vision. In addition, poor hearing, dementia, and slower reflexes are conditions that inhibit the driving abilities of some senior citizens. Medications can also adversely impact an elderly person’s capacity for safe driving as side effects sometimes include feeling drowsy, lightheaded, or less alert.
Senior drivers are prone to certain types of driving mistakes according to the National Institutes of Health
. Failing to yield the right of way and failing to stay in the lane are two common problems for elderly drivers. Driving speed is another troublesome issue, as seniors can have problems with excessive speeds, as well as driving too slowly. Misjudging the time or distance necessary to turn in front of traffic is a typical mistake of senior drivers, as is failing to stop completely at stop signs.
Senior Citizens and Pennsylvania Driving Laws
Driver competency, not age, is what determines a person’s right to drive in the state of Pennsylvania. Regulations require doctors and other medical practitioners to report patients whom they diagnose with conditions that may make them unsafe drivers. Medical reports that lead to revoked driving privileges of people age 65 and older account for about half the total cases.
In addition, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot) has a Mature Driver Examination Program
. Every month, the DOT randomly selects 1,900 licensed drivers who are over the age of 45. Regulations require that anyone selected must undergo vision and physical examinations within 7 months of license renewal, and depending on those test results, a person may be required to pass a driving test in order to retain his driving privileges.
Other Pennsylvania programs offer incentives to promote safety. For example, anyone who voluntarily turns in his driver’s license for medical reasons is entitled to a one-time free identification card. In addition, many insurance companies offer a 5% discount to anyone age 55 or older who completes the Senior Highway Safety Education Program, and the discount applies for 3 years. Another voluntary program allows drivers 65 and older to choose a 2 year license renewal period instead of the standard 4 year renewal; the 2 year renewal fee is less expensive.
Resources for Senior Drivers and Their Loved Ones
Knowing common warning signs will help a senior and his loved ones know when it is time to limit or stop driving. Receiving multiple traffic tickets or warnings from law enforcement officers is one such indication, and so is getting lost, especially in familiar locations. Finding scrapes and dents on the car, mailbox, fence, or garage door is another symptom that it could be time to reconsider driving. Other warning signs include slow reaction times, difficulty judging distances, and confusing the gas pedal and the brake pedal. Driving self-assessment tools are available online, and professional driving-skills evaluations are helpful for identifying driving deficiencies and solutions.
If you are concerned that a senior driver has a medical impairment that adversely affects his ability to drive, you can report the driver to the PennDOT
. The report must be submitted as a detailed letter that includes your observations, the driver’s specific medical impairment, your name, and your contact information. A medical unit at the DOT will determine if a driver’s test is necessary, and your identity will not be disclosed to the driver.
Safety Tips for Mature Drivers
PennDOT offers a pamphlet with information on safety tips for senior drivers. Here are a few of the tips included in the brochure, and you can access all of them by clicking Mature Driver Safety Tips
- Visibility is more difficult at night, dusk, and dawn so reduce driving during those times
- Avoid looking directly into oncoming car headlights
- Know your route ahead of time and stay on familiar roads
- Avoid distraction while driving by not eating or using a cell phone
What To Do If You Are the Victim of a Car Accident
A car accident has the potential to impact you and your family’s lives forever. Property damages, lost wages, injuries, and even death can be the tragic results of another driver’s failure to drive safely. The attorneys of Donaghue & Labrum are sensitive to the challenges faced by car accident victims, and they have decades of experience fighting and winning for their clients. If you have been the victim of a car accident, call Donaghue & Labrum for a free consultation.