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Driving Me Crazy or Driving Ms. Daisy?

Updated: May 28, 2020

 I had a client in her mid-nineties say to me, "My macular degeneration is getting worse, but thank God, I can still drive."

               The National Highway Safety Administration released a graph that indicates that teenagers and older people are the riskiest drivers. While the 16 year old male driver is three times as likely to have a crash per million miles traveled as an 85 year old, the 18 year old driver is just as likely to have a fatal crash as an 80 year old driver.

               Common sense tells us that teen driving fatalities are primarily due to the speed of the car at the point of impact. Although the speed at impact is likely to be significantly lower for the older driver, the injury or fatality is due to the weaker physical condition of the driver. It appears from the graph that traveling in a car with a driver between the ages of 55 and 65 is the safest way to go.

               I recently met with a client who was upset that her father, who had moved to a state south of us, was planning a trip back to Washington to pick up his Triumph (TR6) to drive it to his new home. She was absolutely convinced that he should not be driving. I asked some relevant questions: "How long has he been driving? Does he have a history of reckless driving, accidents, or tickets? What is causing your concern about his driving at this time? Who owns the Triumph? Who would get the sports car if dad died?"

               We can rest easy and be very thankful that the fears of one child cannot abolish our right to drive. But we must also remember that driving is a privilege. In order to maintain our right to drive, a certain minimum level of proficiency must be demonstrated through periodic written and driving tests. As with any other physical activity, driving can be impaired by substances such as drugs (both prescribed and illegal) and alcohol, and physical limitations that result from age and/or illness. However, like any other skill, driving can be improved with training and practice.

               A few months ago, I was shopping around for better auto insurance rates. Every insurance carrier I spoke with asked me if I had recently taken a senior drivers' safety course. Although I have not previously taken such a course, I learned that they can offer upwards of 40 hours of training and cover everything from soup to nuts. (Well, no, actually that would be a cooking class.) They do, however, cover everything from cell phone non-use to not entering the intersection when stopping to allow oncoming traffic to pass before a left turn. These courses may offer information that would make every one of us a safer driver.

               As for the Triumph-driving dad, my advice to the daughter was this: "It is his car, and he is a licensed and insured driver. He has every right to drive his car wherever the law allows. You (daughter) have no right to stop him. You might want to volunteer to take the road trip with him." She was not happy with my answer. I asked her to remember back to the time when she was 19 years old. Did she do any of the things that her father didn't particularly want her to do? Well, I guess the tables have turned.

               As for me . . . I signed up for the senior drivers' safety course. I'll keep you posted.

Article submitted by:

Richard C. Tizzano

Elder Law & Estate Planning Attorney, Sherrard McGonagle Tizzano & Lind

Best Selling Author, Accidental Safari


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