Although elderly drivers are much less likely to engage in risky behaviors like drunk driving or speeding, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that fatal crash rates increase dramatically after age 75 on a per mile traveled basis. Many of these accidents involve injuries to people other than the elderly driver, creating unique liability issues when it’s time to file a personal injury claim.
Laws Restricting Older Drivers
Since driving is associated with maintaining independence and freedom, the state of Louisiana does not heavily restrict older drivers. However, the following guidelines are in place to urge seniors and their loved ones to make thoughtful choices about getting behind the wheel:
- Drivers age 70 or over must renew their license in person, with a required vision test. Written and/or road tests can be required if there is a reason to suspect impairment.
- Drivers age 70 or over must renew their license every four years.
- Any concerned citizen can report a driver to request an investigation into his safety record.
- Doctors can report a visual limitation, physical impairment, or mental disability that affects the ability to drive safely by completing a medical examination form.
Restrictions can be placed on an elderly driver's license as a precautionary measure instead of simply refusing to issue a new license. Some common restrictions for seniors include:
- Driving only in the daytime—no nighttime travel
- Driving only within a specific radius of one's home
- Driving only while wearing a hearing aid
- Driving with time restrictions
- Driving only a vehicle with power steering
- Driving only a vehicle with an automatic transmission
- Driving only a vehicle that is equipped with hand controls
Signs a Senior Should Stop Driving
In most cases, the decision to stop driving is made by the senior and his concerned family members. However, making this decision can be difficult. Age alone does not indicate when someone should stop driving, as there are people in their 80s and 90s who can drive safely, while some people in their 60s or 70s must stop driving altogether.
Some signs that it might be time for a senior to stop driving include:
- Having difficulty seeing road signs and traffic signals
- Getting lost frequently, even in familiar locations
- Becoming easily distracted
- Confusing the gas and brake pedals
- Difficulty backing up and/or parking
- Misjudging gaps in traffic on entrance and exit ramps
- Responding to road obstacles and hazards too slowly
- Falling asleep at the wheel
- Crashing or having frequent "close calls"
- Receiving multiple tickets or warnings from law enforcement
In certain cases, signs of driver impairment could be caused by a treatable problem such as medication interaction, depression, or sleep apnea. Meeting with your loved one’s healthcare provider can help you make a more informed decision regarding this issue.
Liability for Accidents Caused by Elderly Drivers
When an elderly driver has an accident, the law does not make allowances for age. Just as teens are held fully liable for the damages they cause, elderly drivers are expected to compensate those they injure. Damages are typically paid from the driver's insurance policy and/or applicable personal assets.
If you're injured in an accident caused by an elderly person who was not driving his own vehicle at the time of the accident, it may be possible to pursue damages from the owner under negligent entrustment or vicarious liability laws. Vehicle owners have a duty not to allow intoxicated, impaired, or unfit drivers behind the wheel and can be held financially liable for an accident if they neglect this responsibility.
If you're hit by an elderly driver who is driving without a valid license, he may also be driving an uninsured vehicle. If the driver is uninsured and does not have any financial assets, you'll need to seek payment under your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UIM).
Exploring Your Legal Options
Contact the dedicated legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault for a free, no-obligation case review to help explore your legal options regarding liability for an accident caused by an elderly driver.