As people get older, their faculties inevitably decline. Elderly drivers are involved in car accidents with greater frequency than the general population, even though they are more likely to obey traffic rules than ordinary drivers. Reduced reflexes and alertness may make it harder for them to respond to sudden developments on the road. Their reduced sight and hearing also may pose challenges in recognizing hazards around them. For example, they may have more difficulty driving at night than when they were younger. The side effects of medication can make it harder to handle a car safely. Cognitive disabilities or mental health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, can create additional risks for elderly drivers and people on the road around them.
Most elderly people value their independence, of which driving can be a significant part. However, they should be alert to signs that they are no longer able to drive safely. As a child or another family member of an elderly person, you should be alert to these signs as well. The elderly person may start struggling to maneuver through traffic, find driving more stressful than they once did, or start accumulating traffic violations. If they start to ask passengers to help them with basic driving tasks, this should be a red flag that they may no longer be able to drive safely.
Retaining Driving Privileges
That said, not every elderly person should relinquish their driving privileges. Many of them can continue to drive safely and carefully. They may want to take driver refresher courses, which may be offered by the AARP or the Department of Motor Vehicles in their state. These courses may involve periods of instruction with a trained professional, similar to a driving class before an individual gets their license.
Another option might involve pursuing a restricted license from the DMV. These licenses can incorporate various limitations, including wearing glasses behind the wheel, driving only during daylight or outside rush hour, avoiding large highways or certain densely populated areas, or adding an extra mirror to the car.
As a result of increasing concern over the safety risks posed by elderly drivers, many states have implemented distinctive rules for them. A driver who is over 65 or 70 may not be allowed to renew their license online or by mail, and they may need to renew their license at shorter intervals than ordinary drivers. They may need to pass additional tests when they renew their license. When a driver has accumulated a record of traffic violations or car accidents, they may need to go through additional steps to keep their license, such as retaking the original license exam. Sometimes a concerned individual, such as a family member, doctor, or friend, will alert the DMV to a potential safety hazard posed by an elderly person. This may result in additional evaluations or testing requirements.
In the event that an elderly person loses their license or decides to surrender it voluntarily, they will want to consider other forms of transportation. They may be able to use public transportation, perhaps with the assistance of a friend or family member who can guide them through the process initially. Elderly people may be eligible for discounts on taxis and driver services. They may be able to take advantage of certain shuttles offered for senior citizens by community organizations, churches, and businesses. Or sometimes they can use a more informal system of relying on friends or family members to drive them on short trips.