The Florida Highway Patrol reports recently, that an elderly man was driving the wrong way on a Florida highway in an RV. The RV struck a truck head on, killing the truck driver and passenger. Three days later, the RV driver also passed from his injuries. Not only was the senior driver driving the wrong way, his lights were not on at the time of the crash. 29 days before the accident, he passed a driving test in his home state of Michigan.
After hearing a tragic story like this, it’s tempting to set age restrictions on a driver’s license. “Keep in mind, people age at differing rates,” reminds Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s leading independent auto insurance agency. One 75-year-old can barely get out of bed in the morning, while another person the same age, does yoga and goes for a run.
A decline in vision, cognitive functioning (the ability to reason and remember), physical limitations along with medical conditions and prescription medication can hinder the ability to drive. The most common condition the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) decides to restrict a license is for failing cognitive skills including memory, coordination and flexibility.
Although, more options are available for aging drivers. “Driver programs and car innovations are readily available to meet the challenges of senior drivers,” said Ellsworth Buck, Vice President of GreatFlorida Insurance, Florida’s largest independent auto insurance agency.
For example, The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), has developed the Florida GrandDriver program for aging drivers. It is an education and outreach initiative that provides information and resources on driving safely and how to plan for safe transitioning from driving. Also, Driver Rehabilitation Specialists offer refresher courses to keep driving skills sharp.
While it is important for senior drivers to maintain their driving independence, eventually elderly drivers and their family must have the difficult conversation about when driving capabilities are beginning to diminish and causing potential danger for others on the road and themselves. Consumer Reports found safety is the biggest motivator for handing over the keys.
How do you know it is time to have that awkward discussion with your loved one? AARP, has some warning signs that indicate a person should begin to limit or stop driving.
Delayed response to unexpected situations.
Becoming easily distracted while driving.
Decrease in confidence while driving.
Having difficulty moving into or maintaining the correct lane of traffic.
Hitting curbs when making right turns or backing up.
Getting scrapes or dents on car, garage or mailbox.
Having frequent close calls.
Driving too fast or too slow for road conditions.
The DHSMV requires that Florida drivers age 80 or older who renew their license undergo a basic vision test.
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