When Should Seniors Turn Over the Keys?In our car-oriented society a loss of driving privileges can seem like a loss of freedom.  And many people, including senior drivers, are loathe to give away the freedom that driving brings.  On the other hand, we have seen a number of cases over the years where the real negligence of the at-fault driver was just getting behind the wheel after they lost the physical or cognitive capacity to do so safely.

Idaho Law For Senior Drivers

Idaho law allows drivers below age 62 to renew their license for up to eight years. Once you are 62 you can can only renew license for four years at a time.  And, you may be asked to submit to a skills test and/or medical examination. We all know that a senior’s health can change significantly over four years.  That is just another reason friends and family members need to be alert to signs that it may be time for a senior to hand over the car keys.  The government can’t be expected to catch all drivers before they have become unsafe.

Certainly mere age is not a reliable indicator of when a senior should stop driving. Seniors in good physical health with no cognitive impairments pose no greater accident risk than any other driver on the road.  IN fact, they can be among the very safest drivers.

Vision and Hearing Impairments

Studies have shown that 90% of the information a person needs to drive safely comes from the ability to see clearly. That makes vision the single most important sense for a driver.  Because vision problems are more common as we age, it is important that a senior (in fact all drivers) get regular eye exams. Cataracts, glaucoma, and other eye problems are primary indicators that it’s no longer safe for a senior to be driving.

Although some hearing loss on its own isn’t reason for senior drivers to give up driving, it can compound the struggle caused by deteriorating vision. It is estimated that more than 1/3 of people over the age of 65 have hearing problems. Hearing loss can often occur so gradually that those affected don’t even realize there is a problem.   But when hearing problems compound vision problems, the time to be a passenger may well have arrived..

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions that cause confusion, poor judgment, and slowed reaction times can make a person of any age unfit to drive. It is obvious once you think about it that a senior driver suffering from heart problems, seizures, and/or dementia may pose a serious safety hazard on the road.

Even if a medical condition itself doesn’t affect a senior’s ability to drive safely, prescription drugs taken for the condition sometimes cause side effects that can be problematic. Medications that cause drowsiness, confusion, blurred vision, tremors, and memory problems create a danger on the road. Consult with your physician if this is a problem to see if there is a different medication with less bothersome side effects that will eliminate the need for a senior to stop driving altogether.

Slight Silver Linings

There are at least a couple of things Idaho provides that reduce, a tiny bit, the impact of the loss of the ability to drive.  A senior who voluntarily surrenders his or her license is eligible for a free photo ID card from the Idaho Transportation Department when the driver’s license is presented at the nearest DOT office. Seniors who are unable to drive for medical reasons are also eligible for transportation assistance through the Idaho Commission on Aging.

Protecting Your Legal Rights

If you are injured by a negligent driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses. Please call (208) 343-7510.  You will receive a free case review with one of the the experienced attorneys at Hepworth Holzer.

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