For many older Americans in Rhode Island, being able to drive equals autonomy. It means not having to depend on someone else to take them to the grocery store or to the doctor’s office. But, as a person ages, there is no question that his or her reaction time slows and sight and hearing diminish. These functions are crucial when it comes to safe driving whether you are taking the freeway or heading to the neighborhood hardware store. Elderly drivers can become unpredictable when the skills and abilities that help them drive safely diminish.
Senior Drivers May Be Dangerous
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, by the year 2030 about 70 million people in the United States will be 65 years or older and a majority of these elderly drivers will have driver’s licenses. Statistics from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety also show that elderly drivers have a higher crash rate per mile than middle-aged drivers and are more prone to crash-related injuries and fatalities. Causes of accidents involving elderly drivers include a variety of factors from use of prescription drugs and dementia to poor vision and lack of reflexes.
When unpredictable elderly drivers get on the road, they are putting not only themselves but also other road users in grave danger. It is up to family members of these individuals to spot any signs of dangerous driving. Red flags may include near misses or when a driver gets lost in a familiar neighborhood. Some elderly drivers who have lost their skills or abilities may be reasoned with, but others may be stubborn or in denial, and feel like they will lose their independence if they hand over the car keys.
Dealing with Dangerous Elderly Drivers
There are ways in which you may deal with unpredictable elderly drivers in your family and help keep them safe. First, understand that a car may be a lethal weapon in the hands of an unpredictable senior driver. Be honest and respectful when you talk to your loved one about his or her driving. Gently ask them to give up their keys. Add allies if your one-on-one conversation was not successful.
Offer alternatives by arranging other modes of transportation. Look into resources in your community such as community vans, carpools and meal drop-off programs. Use the law only as the last resort. Your loved one’s doctor may help by reporting the danger or the need for retesting to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Protecting Your Rights
If you have been injured in a car accident involving an elderly driver, an experienced Rhode Island car accident lawyer can help you better understand your legal rights and options. You may be able to seek compensation from the driver for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, rehabilitation, pain and suffering and emotional distress. Your actions in this regard will not only ensure that your legal rights are protected, but may also help prevent another car accident involving the same driver.