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Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie, Inc.

The Slippery Slope of Allowing The Elderly Infirmed To Drive.

Posted on Mar 23, 2010

Today in Los Angeles County, an elderly driver reportedly drove her car into an optician's building.  She pressed on the accelerator rather than the brake.  She is over 70 years old.
A common question frequently arises in accidents like this. When should we consider limiting the driving capability of the elderly.  An investigation will be required to determine whether this was merely an accident, one that could have happened to anyone.  Unfortunately because she was elderly, the question frequently arises, when should we limit the driving capability of the elderly? 

Unfortunately, this is a very real issue.  Our firm has been representing clients that are victims to the infirmed.  One such instance was a Riverside man that had a serious seizure disorder.  His doctors refused to limit his driving and he was approved by the department of motor vehicles, based on the doctors’ recommendations.  He had a seizure, causing an accident, killing the young boy's mother.
Unfortunately the doctor is usually not the best decision maker.  The doctor may see the patient for only a short period of time, and rely upon the patient's description of his condition.  They may not even see an actual seizure occurring, only hear about it or have it reported to them.  In actuality, the family members are the first to see defective driving and should report the elderly to have their license removed.
California protects the identity of those reporting concerns in family members.  Additionally, it is important to explain to those that are incapacitated and unable to drive why they pose a danger.  Of course, removing their ability to drive is an inconvenience for them and their family, and sometimes it can even be a sign of lack of independence.
However, the ultimate consequence, the killing of another, or seriously causing injury, should be weighed against their desire for independence.
We wouldn't consider giving a seven year old a driver's license, because we know that person lacks maturity and experience, size and giving a license would not be appropriate.  We should feel no less resolved about the elderly person that lacks the capability to be safe.

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