When was the last time you had a heart-to-heart talk with an elderly parent or grandparent about their driving abilities? As uncomfortable as that might be, it could be a life saver. A Baltimore news source reported that the AAA found that on average, more than one Maryland senior citizen is killed weekly in an auto accident. One a week.
That statistic might be surprising to some. However Baltimore traffic accident injury lawyers know what can happen when elder drivers lose their ability to safely helm an automobile on Maryland roads, highways, and city streets.
Too often, we hear a Baltimore, Maryland area news story about a senior citizen who lost control of their vehicle and caused a serious or fatal pedestrian accident or car crash. The AAA urges families to have those frank discussions about when it's time for seniors to stop driving. Other factors to consider for senior driving safety:
- Some states such as Illinois and New Hampshire have begun to pass laws requiring seniors to be retested (e.g., at age 75) before they can renew their driver's licenses. Maryland law states that age alone may not be considered justification for reexamination, though the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) conducts vision testing over age 40.
- Seniors may show warning signs that their driving ability is no longer up to snuff -- such as excessively slow driving, near-misses or minor traffic accidents, or confusion behind the wheel.
- Medical doctors may talk to their elderly patients if they find their eyesight, cognitive abilities, and/or reflexes may no longer be adequate to safely drive a car. Medications may also have an effect on senior drivers' ability to react to weather conditions and road obstacles.
- Law enforcement officials in some Maryland counties may receive training in how to recognize Alzheimer's or dementia symptoms in elderly drivers who commit driving infractions.
- Seniors should choose vehicles that meet their needs for comfort, operation of controls, and field of vision within the car (e.g., power mirrors and windows, adjustable foot pedals and steering wheels, seats with lumbar support, dash controls with large buttons), as well as road safety features (e.g., anti-lock brakes, dual airbags, stability control).
The ability to drive to the store, to appointments, or to visit family and friends is among the freedoms that seniors enjoy. Along with moving into a retirement community or nursing home, giving up the keys is a big step for any aging person. With no laws on the books in Maryland on retesting senior drivers, it's up to families to help decide when it's time for mom or dad to put the car in park for good--and rely on others for transportation.
AAA To Hold Elderly Driver Awareness Week
CBS Baltimore.com Dec. 5, 2010
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