The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released some astounding numbers. Among them is the fact that over 500 older adults are injured in car accidents on a daily basis. If you are thinking about estate planning for an older loved one, you are probably wondering how to prevent them from being a part of this statistic – wondering how do you keep them safe?
Do you worry about them every time they get behind the wheel of a car? Perhaps, they may even have told you about some recent fender benders. Are you wondering if it’s time to have that difficult discussion with them? You know the one – the one about possibly surrendering their car keys. Ouch! That is a complex and emotional discussion. After a lifetime of driving, surrendering car keys can feel like a loss of freedom, independence and mobility.
Aging doesn’t automatically mean that you are losing your driving skills. Helpguide.org https://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia-aging/how-aging-affects-driving.htm lists these things that older drivers should be very careful to do on a regular basis.
- Vision: (a) annual eye exams, (b) keeping windshields, mirrors, and headlights clean, (c) keep the dashboard light brightness on high.
- Hearing: (a) Have an audiologist check for hearing aid needs, (b) if you do wear hearing aids, always wear them when you are driving (c) remember that open car windows can impair a hearing aid’s effectiveness.
- Meds: Discuss your current meds with your physician. You want to make sure that none of them can affect your driving.
- Sleep: Besides making sure that you are getting plenty of sleep (important for all drivers regardless of age), check to make sure that any sleep medications you may be taking at night will not affect your driving the next day.
- Vehicle: You should be driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission, power steering and power brakes. The more modern safety features the better.
Some states require annual eye exams and driving tests for older drivers. The state of Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) doesn’t have any specific tests for the elderly. Every four years, when it’s time to renew your driver’s license, everyone is given the same test.
If you have seen the signs of an older driver, like those yellow stripes down the side of the car from the ATM pole. If you are concerned that your elderly relatives will automatically get their license renewed (and you are questioning whether they should), you can hire an occupational therapist or a certified driver rehabilitation specialist to give them a driving evaluation. Besides evaluating skills, these professionals can also recommend car modifications to help someone drive as long as possible. One resource for this service is the American Automobile Association (AAA). AAA also has a self-assessment test that the older driver can do on their own Drivers 65 Plus.
The concern for the safety of beloved elder relatives comes up often in my estate planning conversations with clients. Anyone who knows me knows I love cars almost as much as I love people. Let’s, you and I, begin the discussion of driving safety and driving options. Call 216-831-0042 to speak to Albert G. Hehr, III Esq. at Meyers Roman Friedberg & Lewis.