You should always respect the older adults in your life. But you may also want to fear them on the highway.
While our older adult relatives have a wealth of knowledge and compassion, they don’t always make the quickest or best decisions behind the wheel. and as Salon points out, letting older drivers admit they’re not as safe as they once were is difficult, if not impossible.
So if you can’t take the keys from an aging parent, are you on the hook when they do? plow through a sidewalk full of bystanders ?
Older Adult Drivers 101
Our population is aging and most seniors have been driving their entire lives. The CDC notes that ” fatal accidents increase noticeably beginning at ages 70-74 and are highest among drivers 85 and older.”
With nearly 36 million drivers over the age of 65 on the road, the risk of fatal car accidents is real. If your older adult parent causes such an accident, the results may affect their caregivers.
These accidents can happen without much warning. Driving skills can fade quickly and you may not always see the signs that they should stop driving.
Also, not all states impose restrictions on driving license renewals for older drivers. Some states require older drivers to:
- Renew in person (not by post)
- Take a driving test
- Submit a medical certificate of fitness to drive
In many cases, however, it is normally up to children or family members to determine whether an older person is fit to drive.
Does this mean you could be liable for accidents if you don’t confiscate a parent’s keys?
Family Members: Liability of an Adult Child or Younger Adult
A non-driver may be legally liable for an accident. If you lend your motor vehicle to a bad driver, you could be held liable under negligent assignment or vicarious liability laws.
Normally this takes place when parents give their car keys to children. The so-called “Family Car Doctrine” can hold parents liable for car accidents of their children, even if the parents were not in the car.
In general, however, this type of liability applies only to the owner of the vehicle. So if an older adult parent drives their own car, the likelihood of a child or family member being liable for an accident is reduced.
However, depending on how well a child is aware of their older adult parent’s limitation while driving, other theories of negligence can arise even if he wasn’t driving your car.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious car accident, you can talk to an experienced personal injury attorney about your legal liability and legal options.