Should My Elderly Parent Continue to Drive?
By Cheryl Theriault
Because everyone is different and ages differently, there is no one answer to this question. Studies show that older drivers are safer drivers than those age 16 – 19. After a driver reaches 75 years of age, their crash rate per mile driven and fatality rate increases.
The number of drivers 70 years of age and older involved in fatal crashes rose 27% between 1991 and 2001 compared with an overall rate of less than 1% during the same time period.
North Carolina reviews driver’s licenses every 5 years. Every applicant must pass vision and road sign tests. Examiners are trained to notice persons who seem confused or unsteady and can administer driving exams on the spot or refer the individual to Medical Review program of Department of Motor Vehicles.
A family physician, family member, police officer, or other concerned party may also refer an individual to the medical review program to see if restrictions should be made. This should be done in writing and mailed to: NC Department of Motor Vehicles, Attn: Medical Review, 3112 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699; telephone (919) 861-3809.
Many drivers begin imposing restrictions on themselves to begin with. It is not uncommon for people to stop driving after dark, to avoid busy interstates, to travel only in familiar routes, etc.
Several recommendations if you are unsure or live at a distance include:
- When visiting, have your loved one drive to the grocery store, doctor’s appointment and ride with them.
- AARP has an 8 hour refresher course for older drivers.
- To learn what your state requires of older drivers, visit the website of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
- Order the booklet “Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully.” It was published in 2000 by the USAA Educational Foundation, AARP, and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
- The American Medical Association has released new guidelines to help doctors assess who should no longer be driving.
- AARP has a self assessment tool “Creating Mobility Choices” and can be ordered from them by calling (800) 424-3410.
- “The Older and Wiser Driver” contains self-assessment tools were developed in 1996 by the Foundation for Traffic Safety of the American Automobile Association (AAA). Also available is a self-assessment quiz titled “Drivers 55 Plus: Test Your Own Safety Performance. For family members and professionals concerned about an older drivers capacity there is also a 34 page booklet “How to Help an Older Driver.”
- The Foundation for Traffic Safety has also launched a website with audio and video driver safety topics.