Each day in the United States, 10,000 adults celebrate their 65th birthdays. The population is undeniably aging, which means that there are more senior drivers on the road than at any time in the past. Senior drivers aren’t necessarily more dangerous than younger drivers since they tend to drive carefully and to drive at low-risk times such as during the day in good weather. Unfortunately, though, a senior who drives past his prime can be a menace to himself and to others on the road.
Seniors often don’t realize on their own when they have gotten too old to drive safely. Family members can and should try to look out for signs of problems, but unfortunately many older adults won’t listen to their kids or to other well-meaning relatives about the fact that it is no longer safe to drive. As a result, our Boston car accident lawyers know that it often falls to a patient’s doctor to have a talk with the patient and let him know that driving is no longer OK.
Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that many clinicians are waiting too long to talk to seniors about the dangers.
Docs are Waiting too Long to Have The Talk About Senior Driving Risks
According to Nurse.com, a small-scale study was recently conducted on clinicians and senior drivers. The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine and asked both doctors and seniors when discussions on driving dangers come up and how they feel about those conversations.
The outcome of the study revealed that many healthcare professionals wait until they see red flags to talk to their patients about the risks of senior driving. These red flags can include serious health problems. However, another red flag that was mentioned involved the senior actually being involved in a car wreck.
Waiting until an elderly driver has been in a crash or has severe physical or mental impairments means that the senior could be a risk to himself or others long before a doctor gets a chance to have a conversation about the issue. Waiting this long puts lives in danger.
The study revealed one likely reason why healthcare providers tend to wait to talk to seniors about driving risks: because the conversation is very uncomfortable for all parties involved. Many seniors view driving as essential to remaining independent and few want to discuss the possibility of giving that up.
Unfortunately, the need to stop driving becomes a reality for the vast majority of elderly people as studies have indicated that most seniors outlive their ability to drive safely by about six years.
The good news is that while seniors reported finding a conversation about giving up driving to be very uncomfortable, most respondents to the study found questioning and discussions about senior driving risks to be OK. In fact, keeping the lines of communication open was seen as a good thing. Doctors can and should thus explore whether a senior is still OK to drive by having a regular conversation about the subject at visits.
Researchers suggested that clinicians should start talking to seniors about driving risks at office visits once the senior turns 65-years-of age. At this milestone, conversations should become a regular part of office visits so a doctor can gauge exactly how well the senior is driving and so this subject will become one that doctors and patients can talk about freely. This will hopefully allow a doctor to learn earlier when a senior is having problems that could increase his accident risk.
If you or a loved one was hurt in a car accident in Massachusetts, call Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers for a free and confidential appointment — (617) 777-7777.
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Bike Safety Advocates Unhappy With Boston Crash Study, Boston Personal Injury Attorney Blog, June 20, 2013.