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Responsibility for Elderly Parent Driving: Car Accidents & Liability

Time for senior to hand over keys to the car to his son

“I’m constantly worrying about my elderly parent driving. What if they get into an accident? But also, would it be MY fault if they got into an accident and hurt someone else? I take care of everything my parent does, and I’m worried negative attention will be put on me.”You may feel a moral obligation to care for your parent. But when it comes to driving, you are barely responsible in the eyes of the law.

Am I Liable If My Parent Causes A Car Accident?

The short answer is no, unless you own the car your parent drives. You may feel responsibility for your elderly parent driving, but you are in no way responsible for any accidents they may have. Taking care of an elderly parent is not like taking care of a child. Your parent has more agency. That means even if your parent lives with you and you pay for everything—their car, gas, insurance, etc.—you are still not legally responsible. However if your parent drives a car that is registered, leased, or rented in your name, it’s a little tricky, especially if you’re aware of your parent’s driving abilities. The laws about the car owner’s liability in this situation vary from state to state, but all will hold you accountable in some regard. Contact your insurance company to learn more about the laws in your state.

POA Driving For Extra Safety

If you are concerned about your parent’s driving ability, you may want to consider getting a Motor Vehicle Power of Attorney (POA). This document allows your parent to grant all matters related to registering, licensing, titling, and other matters to you. A vehicle POA is useful when a car owner is no longer physically able to attend to their vehicle’s needs. To write up this document, you will need important information about your vehicle and its former owner and to properly notarize the form. Visit this link to learn how to properly fill out this form for your state.

Car Accidents Caused By Elderly Drivers

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2015 that there were more than 40 million licensed drivers 65 and older in the United States, making it a 50% increase since 1999. They also discovered numerous findings on elderly car accidents, including that nearly 7,000 older adults died and more than 200,000 received emergency treatment for motor vehicle crash injuries.The center also compiled findings from the Federal Highway Administration and numerous studies on risk factors in elderly car accidents. These included:

  • Fatal crashes increase among drivers ages 70-74 and are the highest among drivers over 85. This is attributed to an increased vulnerability to injury and medical complications rather than a risk of being involved in a crash.
  • Males have higher death rates than females across all age groups
  • Declines in vision, cognitive functioning, and other age-related issues may affect older adults’ driving abilities

The center also compiled information from numerous sources on how seniors stay safe:

  • Compared to their younger counterparts, elderly drivers tend to limit transportation during night time, adverse weather conditions, and on major highways

Senior drivers are less likely to drive under the influence. In 2015, only 6% of drivers over the age of 75 involved in fatal crashes drove with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. This is in comparison to the 28% of drivers ages 21-24.

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