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Helping Older Drivers Stay Safe Behind The Wheel

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On: Fri, Dec 27, 2013 at 11:30AM | By: Karen Cook


Helping Older Drivers Stay Safe Behind The Wheel

Several years ago (I won’t depress myself by figuring up exactly how many) I was in a car accident on this day, Christmas Eve. It could have ruined Christmas for me and my family. I had two young sons at the time who were thankfully with my mother. I was injured but not severely and we spent most of the day in the emergency room, which is generally crowded around the holidays.

After I recovered and dealt with the insurance company I found out that the gentleman who hit me was an 82 year old man who had grabbed a family member’s keys and left the house for a joyride. He was not immediately missed in the festivities of the day. At the scene of the accident I recalled that he kept inquiring if his wife was ok. He was alone in the car. I happened to run into his family at the impound lot. We were both retrieving personal items from the totaled vehicles. They told me his wife had been dead for 5 years.

The family apologized but it would have been more thoughtful to keep an eye on a parent who was obviously not fit to drive. His drivers’ license had been revoked some years earlier. This is an issue I have addressed before and in that article I gave warning signs to tell if your parent needs to hang up the keys. This article though is a plea to make certain that people who obviously have lost the capacity to drive, or have mental impairments that may cause them to act irrationally are watched during the busy family gathering so prevalent at this time of year.

My gentleman found the keys in a bowl in the entryway and had his choice of cars. It was a bad idea to have them so easily accessible and close to the point of exit. In 2012 drivers over the age of 65 were involved in 3% more fatal crashes and 16% more accidents involving injuries than in 2011. The average age of drivers over 65 has increased by 20% since 2003 which puts the current number at about 35 million.

If you know an aging driver who may need help determining whether they are a danger to themselves or others on the road go to the American Occupational Therapy Association website to find rehabilitation specialists by zip code. Some drivers just need to unlearn bad habits and these specialists can evaluate individual situations. It may even be covered by insurance or Medicaid.




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