Safe Senior Driving

Older Drivers, when is the right time to hang up the keys?

When we were teenagers, getting a driver’s license was the beginning of our independence. It is no wonder that we as older adults resist any suggestion to give up our driver’s license and discontinue driving. We feel the loss of independence to come and go as we please. Unfortunately, physical and mental issues may interfere with an older adults’ ability to drive. (Elder Law Essential 22-1)

There are many warning signs that an older adult should stop driving. Among them are the following: failing to yield, mistaking the gas pedal for the brake, hitting curbs, scrapes and dents on their car, difficulty maintaining lane position and delayed responses. (We Need To Talk…Family Conversations with Older Drivers, The Hartford)

Earlier in my legal career, I represented a number of older adults who had been involved in fatal car crashes. Because they were at fault in causing the accident, they were charged with vehicular manslaughter. Two seniors I represented had failed to yield and turned in front of an oncoming vehicle. In both cases, the driver of the oncoming vehicle was killed. Another senior was looking for an address and drifted out of his lane. The driver of a motorcycle in the other lane hit my client’s car, lost control of his motorcycle and was killed.

Under Idaho Code §18-4006, vehicular manslaughter is the killing of a human being in which the operation of a motor vehicle was a significant cause, without gross negligence. The maximum punishment for vehicular manslaughter is a fine of up to $2,000.00 and a jail sentence of up to 1 year. In addition, the court can suspend the driver’s license of the older adult. The maximum penalty usually is not imposed by the court in these cases; however, the bigger penalty may be the knowledge that your mistake resulted in the death of another individual.

Idaho Code § 49-326 (1)(c)(1) allows the Department of Transportation to revoke or restrict any person’s license upon the statement of the person’s personal physician that the person has a mental or physical disability, which prevents him from safely driving a motor vehicle.

A helpful and informative booklet has been put out by The Hartford, entitled, “We Need To Talk. Family Conversations with Older Drivers.” You can Google the title and get the internet version of the booklet. It aids in the discussion with older adults, who need to make decisions about safe driving. If you have a concern, please have a conversation as a family, for everyone’s safety.

Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all of Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers Life Care Planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a Senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.