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Are Doctors Responsible for Helping Take the Car Keys Away from Aging Drivers?

Craig McClellan

Safety concerns about older drivers have been in the forefront of the media in the last few weeks - following the August accident in Los Angeles where a 100-year-old man backed his car into a crowd of people just outside an elementary school. The incident has raised a number of questions, such as at what age should drivers no longer be allowed to drive? And who is responsible for telling them that they should no longer be behind the wheel?

The second question is exactly what is at issue in a recent wrongful death case in Santa Ana.

In 2010, an 85-year-old woman drove her car into oncoming traffic, causing a car accident that took the life of her passenger, her longtime boyfriend. But it is not the elderly driver who is being sued by the deceased's family. Instead, it's her doctor.

The lawsuit alleges that her doctor - who had been treating the woman for dementia for nearly two years by the time of the car crash - should have taken the steps to have her license revoked. Because he didn't, the family alleges that the man's death was partially his fault.

Are doctors responsible for notifying someone when they believe a patient should no longer be driving? And if so, at what point should doctors take steps to have a patient's license revoked?

What do you think?

Please check back for our next blog post in which we continue this discussion by looking more closely at reporting requirements under California law and the projected state of elderly drivers in the nation as the baby boom population ages.

Source: Los Angeles Times, " Doctor sued over fatal crash by patient with dementia," Jessica Garrison and Alan Zarembo, Sept. 7, 2012