The ability to drive is a fundamental marker of a person’s autonomy. This is especially true in the United States, where we’ve focused our federal funding on highways, over and above the more communitarian mass transit system. Here, driving is a way of life, connecting us to the outside world – to our friends, our jobs and the broader community. Living in a non-urban setting without a vehicle can leave one feeling hermetic to say the least. That’s why, as people grow older, the prospect of losing a license can seem like the last straw – the final blow to their independence. For this reason, some people refuse to give up their license, opting instead to continue driving despite their declining health and withering faculties.
Even though this is an understandably human response to losing a sense of one’s independence, an elderly person can still be liable for negligent driving if it results in injury. Take this case from February 2015: a 92-year old man found himself driving in a parking lot with his foot mistakenly pressed to the accelerator. Caught off guard, the man continued to swerve and hit multiple vehicles, before two bystanders were able to intervene and stop the car from causing further destruction.
Thankfully no one was hurt, but the effects can be deadlier. Take the case of an 81-year old woman, who after losing control and mounting a curb, killed a 71-year old pedestrian innocently standing on the sidewalk.
This sort of accident is more common than perhaps we’d like to think. According to the CDC, there are nearly 40 million aged drivers navigating the streets every day. This leads to a fair number of elderly victims, with nearly 6,800 senior citizens dying on a yearly basis. That’s in addition to the 260,000 older adults who get treated in emergency rooms around the country. The fact is: as people get older, the likelihood of an accident increases. That’s why, per mile driven, 85-year old drivers are more likely than any other driver to be involved in a fatal collision.
Since, as is often stated, driving is a privilege and not a right, we must be vigilant about looking after our aging loved ones. In this regard, it is a good idea to have the “hard conversation” sooner rather than later. After all, aging is a process, so it doesn’t have to happen all at once. Instead, you can slowly introduce the topic over time, so that when the moment finally comes, it doesn’t come as a total shock.
In order to determine if your loved one is at risk of getting into an accident, you can keep an eye out for a few basic signs:
- New dents appearing on the vehicle
- Poor reaction time
- Forgetting basic driving habits, like turning on lights
- Increased road rage
- Frequently distracted while driving
These are just a few of the signs you can look out for as you attempt to discern whether your loved one is a danger to himself and the world around him.
Being on the Other Side
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a negligent elderly driver, you may be able to receive compensation for lost income, medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, any associated spending and pain and suffering damages, such as emotional turmoil or life-altering injuries. What you can recover will depend on the particularities of your case.
Thus, it’s a good idea to seek the help of an experienced elderly car accident attorney. This person can help you investigate the collision, determine liability, negotiate the value of your claim and be your advocate throughout the process. In effect, having an attorney can allow you to focus on the thing that matters most: recovery.