To this day, I will never forget the first and last time I rode with my 85-year-old father in law. The light was green as we approached a major intersection and all of a sudden he decided to slow down almost coming to a complete stop in the middle of the intersection. I tried not to panic but I quickly encouraged him to step on the gas and keep driving. That was a scary moment for me; I also worried about my father and mother in law as well as all the drivers around us. To my father in law, like most people, driving represented independence, control and freedom. Any discussions we had with him about his driving became emotionally charged. He would show us his valid driver’s license, which meant to him that he was a good driver and no one was going to tell him any different.
We were fortunate, one day my father in law announced that he was selling his car and was no longer going to drive. We were shocked at his announcement, whole-heartedly supported his decision and did not ask a lot of questions as to why. Months later we learned from my mother in law that just before his decision to turn in the car keys they were almost hit broad side by a semi-truck. The truck had to swerve to the other lane to miss them. They were lucky and I realized that as hard as it is, having that conversation or taking action when concerned about an older driver could save their lives and the lives of others.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) older drivers are more likely to be killed or injured in a crash than any other age group. From 2003 to 2012 the number of licensed older drivers increased by 21 percent and now there are over 35 million licensed older drivers on the road today. What are the top 5 crash types for older drivers?
- Turning left at an intersection with a stop sign.
- Turning left at an intersection on a green light without a dedicated green arrow.
- Turning right at a yield sign to merge with traffic speeds of 40 to 45 mph.
- Merging onto a highway from a ramp that has a yield sign.
- Changing lanes on a road that has four or more lanes.
When is the older driver at risk? What are the warning signs? How do I begin a conversation when I become concerned? What can I do if they won’t stop driving?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a booklet called “How to Understand and Influence Older Drivers” that will help answer all of these questions and provide you with other valuable resources.