Perhaps you have noticed that your loved one’s driving is becoming increasingly dangerous. Lately, there have been a number of “close calls” and their vehicle has multiple scratches and dents. You have also noticed your loved one frequently changes lanes without signaling, makes sudden stops and is sometimes startled by passing cars. It has gotten to the point where you don’t feel safe riding in the same car and you are terrified that your loved one is going to cause a serious accident. Although you are concerned about your loved one’s driving, you also recognize how independent your loved one is and how devastating the loss of their driving privileges would be. What should you do?
Driving is a very complex task which requires the ability to concentrate, react quickly, utilize hearing, vision and the use of arms, hands, legs, neck and shoulders. Unfortunately, aging is not kind to the physical and cognitive abilities that are essential to safe driving. Statistics show that drivers over the age of 80 have accident rates comparable to teenage drivers – the highest risk group. Even worse, the fatality rate for older drivers is significantly higher than for younger drivers.
Ignoring the problem is not a viable option. If your loved one is an unsafe driver, you have a moral obligation to do something. Simply ignoring the problem may result in serious injury or even death to your loved one or another driver. Depending on the severity of the problem, here are some options:
1. Have your loved one examined by his or her primary care physician or a geriatric specialist to screen for Alzheimer’s or Dementia or other conditions which may be causing the poor driving.
2. Seek a referral for a professional driving evaluation. In the absence of Dementia or Alzheimer’s, perhaps your loved one’s driving can be helped.
3. Contact the Secretary of State’s Office. If your loved one refuses to cooperate and insists on driving, you can anonymously file form OC-88 for a mandatory driving evaluation.