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Issues Affecting the Safety of Older Drivers

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As the number of senior drivers increase, many families are concerned about the safety of their loved ones and those surrounding them on the roads and in the community.

Older drivers have the benefits of experience and wisdom, but the skills and abilities for safe driving tend to deteriorate with age.  Health issues including medications, sleep disorders, epilepsy, alcoholism, and dementia most certainly affect driving safety.

As a group, only those drivers who are 25 or younger are at a higher risk than senior drivers for a serious collision.  For drivers over the age of 85, the fatality rate is nearly four times higher than that for teen drivers.  Another consideration is that older drivers have a much more difficult time recovering from even minor injuries from a fender-bender than would a younger driver.

Senior Driving Safety in West Virginia

How to Begin the Conversation

We greatly value freedom and the ability to come and go at will, so it is not easy to bring up the subject of giving up one’s license.  If you have legitimate concerns, the driver may have the same concerns, but was waiting for someone else to notice.

Your concern shown in initiating the conversation could save a life.

To help assess a loved one’s competency for driving, a good place to start would be this downloadable simple checklist.

Signs that it is Time to Stop or Limit Driving

According to the AARP, the ten most common signs that it is time to limit or stop driving include:

  • Almost crashing, with frequent “close calls”
  • Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, etc.
  • Getting lost, especially in familiar locations
  • Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings
  • Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving their foot from the gas to the brake pedal; confusing the two pedals
  • Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps
  • Experiencing road rage or causing other drivers to honk or complain
  • Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving
  • Having a hard time turning around to check the rear view while backing up or changing lanes
  • Receiving multiple traffic tickets or “warnings” from law enforcement officers

it is imperative that families, health care providers, and the DMV work in unison with older drivers to promote and ensure safety for both the individual and the community.  There are ways to start the conversation and effect change, but careful listening and respect are keys to not alienating or offending in the process.  It may be helpful to frame the conversation in true concern for your loved one and the safety of others.  No mature and right-thinking person would want to endanger anyone else through their actions.

West Virginia DMV Guidelines Concerning Medical Conditions

There are no rules especially for senior drivers, but in order to renew a driver’s license, an eye exam must be passed, and a written or road test may be required if there are indications of driver impairment.

Most older and medically challenged patients will self-limit driving by only driving during daylight hours and only traveling to familiar destinations, but a few will push the limits.

How to Request an Unsafe Driver Investigation in West Virginia

The West Virginia DMV will accept information from caregivers, law enforcement, DMV employees, doctors, and immediate family members who have become potentially unsafe as drivers.  This report will not be anonymous.  The affected driver has the right to know who has filed the report.

Reports can be made by submitting a Medical Review Request.

The completed form should be mailed to:

Division of Motor Vehicles
Medical Section
P.O. Box 17030
Charleston, West Virginia 25317

Or fax the correspondence to 1-304-957-0323

After receiving such a request, the DMV may require a physician to perform an examination within 90 days and file a Medical Report Form stating their findings.

More Information:  WV DMV Medical Review Unit

As in all things, let love be your guide as you broach this exceedingly difficult subject which you may have avoided for a long time.  Lives may depend on it!

Related Articles:

West Virginia Senior Drivers at Increased Risk for Fatalities:  When is it time to Hand Over the Keys?

AARP:  Ten Signs that it is Time to Stop or Limit Driving

Elderly Driver Crashes into Wal-Mart, Causing Fatalities and Injuries

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