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When do you talk to your elders about getting behind the wheel?

Senior man driving
Posted at 4:24 PM, Apr 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-22 13:29:20-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — On Easter Sunday, Phyllis Silvas inadvertently crashed into the Staples Street Meat Market. Two people were treated for injuries in the crash.

On Thursday, a man was pinned between a car and the Conviva Care Center after a 90-year-old woman mistakenly hit the gas pedal instead of the brake.

And there have been other recent, similar accidents, which raise the question about elderly people getting behind the wheel.

In Silvas’ case, police said she was pulling in to park and accidentally hit the accelerator rather than the brake.

A spokesperson for AAA Texas said old age is typically not a reason someone has to stop driving.

“Normal aging does effect driving, but there really isn’t a set age when a person is no longer safe to be behind the wheel,” said Joshua Zuber, spokesperson for AAA Texas. “In fact, most people can safely drive well into old age. When people become unsafe to drive it’s generally the result of an underlying medical condition or medication.”

He said other tell tale signs are if the person has had two or more citations in two years or two or more close calls or near miss crashes.

If those reasons do come up, Zuber said that conversation can be difficult. For starters, make it a one-on-one conversation and don’t bring in the whole family. It could anger the elder you’re trying to help.

“Communicate openly and respectfully,” Zuber said. “Avoid an intervention. Keep the discussion between you and the older driver you want to assist.”

Adding on to that, Zuber said to ask for the person’s permission before seeking more information like from their doctor, friends or neighbors.

“Never make assumptions,” said Zuber. “Focus on the facts available to you such as a medical condition or medication regimen that might make driving unsafe. Don’t accuse the older driver of being unsafe or assume the driving should stop all together.”

If you fall into the elderly driver category, here are a few resources to keep your driving skills sharp.

There are two from AAA, Keeping the Keys Workshop and the Senior Driving page has answers to your questions.

AARP also offers online courses and driving classes.

Digital content producer Ana Tamez contributed to this story.