Tuesday afternoon, an elderly driver crashed into the storefront of Bethesda’s Citrine Salon. ABC 7 reported that the driver approached the building via the driveway, sped up, hit a pylon, traveled along the retaining wall and then crash into the front of the building. The accident occurred around 3pm and the driver and two salon employees were taken to the hospital for treatment. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
The incident is eerily similar to last week’s accident at the Georgetown Whole Foods where, luckily, no one was injured.
For me, the two events bring to mind the question of when someone (our grandparents, parents, and eventually, though we don’t want to think about, ourselves) should stop driving. And with the increasing age and life expectancy of the US population, the potential risks of having elderly drivers on the road are only going to become more and more pertinent for both our families and our public safety.
Having recently dealt with this issue with my 90 year old grandma, whose VW bug looked like a bumper car, I can say–at the very least–it’s difficult. The driver can feel unreasonably attacked, because they haven’t yet been in an accident, and fearful that taking the car away is just one step towards total loss of independence. On the flip side, family members are worried about the safety of their loved one and the potential risk having them on the road poses to others. All-in-all it’s a particularly messy situation involving a wide range of emotions from all parties.
Unfortunately, DMVs offer little regulatory help. For the most part, they don’t require drivers to re-take road tests after a certain age and, often times, an eye test is all that’s required to renew your license. In my situation, my grandma finally agreed to take a DMV given roadtest, which was not required by the California DMW, and she failed the test for multiple reasons.
If you’re looking for tips on safe driving, advice on how to talk with your loved one about giving up the keys, state DMV regulations for elderly drivers, alternative transportation options, AAA’s seniordriving.org is a great resource with tons of advice on the subject.