Two Elderly Motorists Killed – How Old Is Too Old To Drive?

A couple of accidents this week raise the question – how old is too old to drive? Not to discriminate against our elders, certainly there are young people who don’t drive safety, but a couple of local fatal accidents seem to be focused on that question.

An elderly woman was killed this week in a crash at Timuquana and Eulace roads. The 90-year-old woman was driving south on Eulace around 11 a.m. Tuesday when she turned left onto Timuquana in front of a semi driven by a 33-year-old truck driver. The elderly woman was taken to Shands Hospital and pronounced dead. She was not alone in the car. Her 94-year-old passenger suffered serious injuries according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Everyone was wearing their seat belts and the driver of the truck was not hurt.

In another accident, an 88-year-old motorist veered into the path of an oncoming pickup truck and was killed in St. Johns County Tuesday morning. The woman of St. Augustine tried to turn onto U.S. 1 when the driver’s side of her car was hit. She was wearing a seat belt but died after being taken to Flagler Hospital. The truck driver was wearing his seat belt, as was his passenger, and both were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

We are so sorry for the loss of these two women. This sort of fatal traffic accident can happen to anyone at any age. But sometimes family members will ask how they can get an elderly family member to stop driving.

Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles generally reports that many seniors realize they should not be driving and give up their licenses voluntarily. That is reflected in the statistics. The department reports that the 2008 crash statistics show that the crash rates for people over the age of 65 are lower than for people under the age of 40.

Someone with an unsafe parent driver can confidentially report an unsafe driver to the department. About 39 percent of all reports came from law enforcement and about 34 percent from doctors last year where there were 7,677 referrals in all. The state can ask someone to take an eye exam or a medical exam. Or the person could be asked to retake the driver test. Younger people can be reported too, but generally seniors are the ones reported.

The adult children of elderly drivers often ask if they can be held liable if they did not take their parent off the road. Unless their name is on the parent’s vehicle, they cannot be held liable, even if they realized their parent shouldn’t be driving and did nothing to stop them. But the guilt from doing nothing is another issue that falls outside the scope of the law.

Loneliness, isolation and depression can accompany the decision to give up a license. Our communities are not set up to accommodate someone without a car, and Americans have a different approach to caring for elders than the Europeans do.

If someone you know needs a ride, give them one. It’s as simple as that.

Source reports: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2009-10-06/story/88_year_old_motorist_killed_in_st_johns_crash; http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2009-09-07/story/jacksonville_seniors_face_challenges_without_drivers_licenses

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