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After near-misses, can you stop an elderly parent from driving?

| Jan 24, 2019 | Elder Law |

Recently Prince Philip, the 97-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth II, rolled his Land Rover in a crash with an oncoming minivan. Luckily, no one in either vehicle was seriously injured. He told the responding police that the sun had blinded him.

While it was uncertain who was at fault, a photograph several days later showed him driving another vehicle without a seat belt. The story brings up a tough question: When should you ask an aging loved one to surrender his or her keys? Independence in Colorado is often tied to driving, especially in spread-out suburban and rural communities.

When do driving skills begin to deteriorate?

The likelihood of a driver to die in a Colorado car crash follows a U-curve. On the bar chart, young and old drivers are at the greatest risk. Young drivers are less experienced and tend to be more reckless, while older drivers have slower reflexes, take more medications and may suffer from vision impairment.

At what age does the decline become most apparent? Using 2017 data from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) database, 80-85 is a pivotal page range when driver death rates significantly increase.

And an interesting side note from a American Council on Science and Health blog, the country’s best drivers tend to be women between 35 and 75 who live in the Northeast. Colorado is likely somewhere in the middle, but at least did not get a worst mention.

Colorado licensing requirements

Colorado requires people over 61 to renew their driver’s licenses every five years. Generally, drivers can renew electronically or by mail. That changes at the age of 66, when a driver must include a vision test result from within six months to renew by mail.

Short of calling the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), what can you do when an elderly parent or friend has shown concerning signs? A conversation is a start, but it doesn’t always lead to change. One woman’s mother promised not to drive and signed up for a bus service, but a check of the odometer showed something different.

Bring in medical professionals

One way to avoid constant nagging is to loop in a doctor. In Colorado, physicians may report potentially unsafe drivers to the DMV based on an exam. They can also spend more time educating a patient about medication side effects that might interfere with driving abilities.

You do not want to wait for a crash. When red flags start to emerge, it might be wise to seek advice from an elder law attorney. Because they handle these issues frequently, they will have ideas to address the situation without you having to steal the keys or break into a garage to disable the engine.

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