When Not to Drive


We have a 16-year-old in our house so we have recently re-experienced the thrill of being able to drive.  For those of us who do not live in walkable cities, driving is independence.  It is being able to go where you want when you want.  However, today’s post is going to focus on two situations in which you should not drive.  Steps are underway for technology to prevent you from driving in one instance.  In the other instance, the completely unsophisticated but powerful pen and paper will help you know when not to drive.  Curious?   Read on.

Let’s begin with drunk driving.  Public safety campaigns have warned of the danger of drunk driving now for decades, but the problem persists and is on the rise nationwide. In fact, in Tennessee, 362 drunk driving arrests are made for every 100,000 drivers.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has seen enough and has started the process to require technology in all vehicles that would detect and prevent drunk or impaired driving.

The Bipartisian Infrastructure Law passed in 2021, and it contained a provision calling for this new technology to be implemented.  But even before the legislation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and more than a dozen automakers had been jointly funding research on the issue.  Thus far, only the initial steps have been taken in a long process, but this technology could save over 13,000 lives a year and save $280 billion in costs such as lost wages, medical expenses, etc.

Now, on to another danger and the less sophisticated step you can take to avoid it.   Did you know that 61 percent of older adults with cognitive impairment continued to drive even though 36 percent of their caregivers were concerned about their ability to do so safely?  The majority of seniors are safe drivers because they are experienced, and they typically do not drive aggressively or while impaired.   However, in addition to cognitive impairments such as dementia, older persons generally have slower reflexes, perhaps due to arthritis, or poorer eyesight due to glaucoma, etc.

People have longer life expectancies these days and so the number of drivers over 65 continues to increase.  In 2021, almost 50 million people over age 65 had a driver’s license, which is a 38 percent increase from the decade before and, not surprisingly, car accident deaths for that age group increased at a similar pace.

Many experts are now advocating that older drivers sign non-binding advance directives agreeing to stop driving if family members, a doctor or friends believe it is unsafe to do so.  While it is non-binding, the sight of your own signature on a document combined with the concerns of your family, medical providers or friends is often enough for most older drivers to relinquish the keys if it is unsafe to do so.  The Alzheimer’s Association and the American Occupational Therapy Association both have this type of directive on their website.

Other steps concerned family members and friends can take is to do a road test from time to time with anyone you feel is starting to lose their driving skills.  Confirm  at regular intervals whether they can change lanes, respect the speed limit, read road signs, etc.   And if the time comes to have that talk with an older driver in your family, the advance directive is likely to be persuasive especially if you are prepared to offer other options to maintain independence whether it is offering rides, helping them enroll in a volunteer driver program, navigate a ride share app (Lyft and Uber both have programs for seniors).

At the Law Offices of John Day, our award-winning lawyers see the devastating impact of serious car accidents every single day.  We wish you safe driving and we are here if you need us.

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