Senior Citizens Behind the Wheel: Is It Time to Quit Driving?

Senior Citizens Behind the Wheel: Is It Time to Quit Driving?

grandpa-558324-mThe state of Florida is widely known to be a retiree’s choice destination. There is a large population of senior citizens residing within Saint Petersburg and the surrounding areas; as such, Florida state representatives have to take extra care when addressing the particular needs of those reaching a certain point in life.

According to the CDC, in 2009 there were approximately 33 million drivers over the age of 65. There is hardly any reason to be concerned with this number, as the majority of those individuals are perfectly well-equipped to take on the challenges of the road. However, there is reason to be concerned when you notice an elderly loved one having increasing trouble when behind the wheel. As one might imagine, it can be difficult to admit that it is time to hand over the keys. There is a certain loss of freedom that comes with doing so. As such, many senior citizens are reluctant to admit that they are no longer safe drivers. However, as many as 15 elderly Americans will be killed today as a result of car accidents and another 500 will suffer injuries for the same reason. The chances of being involved in a fatal car crash increase substantially upon reaching the age of 75.

St. Petersburg residents over the age of 80 are required to take a mandatory vision test in order to renew their drivers’ licenses. However, some people believe that is a very lax law considering the danger these individuals may present when driving and the risk inflicted upon other drivers sharing the road. The difficultly lies in determining which individuals are truly unsafe. Due to the fact that everyone ages differently, some will be excellent drivers at 90 years old, while others will see a serious decline at 70. In addition to the obvious effects that age can have on hearing, memory, and eye sight, certain medications (more often prescribed to elderly patients) can drastically reduce energy levels and more than 1,500 fatalities occur each year as a result of drowsy driving.

If a police officer, physician, or loved one feels that an elderly person is no longer safe behind the wheel, a report can be filed and a written and/or physical road test will be required for license renewal. However, there is a danger of insulting a person in making such a request.

Fortunately, there may be another, less embarrassing way to approach the subject with a loved one or patient.

Perhaps the best news is that elderly drivers will have an incentive to take the test and a corresponding online course that intends to address the concerns of loved ones. According to the Florida DMV, a person can “Take an online course designed for Mature Drivers and save 10 Percent on Auto Insurance for 3 years — it’s a Florida Law.” It’s also possible to skip the course and take the test alone.

Though it may be uncomfortable to have the conversation with a loved one, it is important. It is much better to contend with the possible, short-lived embarrassment now than to take the chances of seeing that person you care about in a hospital bed, a personal injury attorney’s office, or someplace much worse.