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Dealing With Impaired Driving Skills In Aging Family Members

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Two weeks ago, Elder Law Issues reintroduced to its readers a discussion on driving skills for the aging driver. We suggested continuing our discussion by introducing strategies to deal with the impaired driver.

We often hear stories like these: A client whose father gets lost driving in his neighborhood has a neighbor let the air out of her dad’s tires. Another client removes the distributor cap from his aunt’s car. A friend finally resorted to putting a large chain and padlock around his father’s steering wheel after a serious but non-injury accident.

Such measures can stop the impaired driver from driving that disabled car. A judge’s order in a guardianship forbidding the ward to drive may also work. Before disabling a car or seeking guardianship when disabilities worsen, however, a more appropriate first strategy is simply better understanding and greater sensitivity to the issue of driving.

For most people today “transportation” means the personal automobile. When one loses the ability to drive, one’s life often changes dramatically. At the March 2002 Maricopa Association of Governments’ conference, “Senior Mobility in the 21st Century: What Can We Do to Prepare?” keynote speaker Dr. Joseph Coughlin, Director of the Age Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pointed out that seniors will find a way to make ‘priority trips’ — to get groceries and go to doctor’s appointments. But, Dr. Coughlin emphasized, “the trips that really make them happy and healthy — getting a haircut when they need it, visiting friends, going out to eat, window shopping — it’s that personal independence of going where you want, when you want, how you want that makes transportation so important to keeping seniors healthy.”

For a closer look at Dr. Coughlin’s insights into older drivers’ concerns see his AARP publication, “Transportation and Older Persons: Perceptions and Preferences.”

Another key strategy is to identify physical disabilities impairing driving as distinct from cognitive impairments. Where possible, utilize rehabilitation programs for physical impairments. The Traffic Safety Center at UC Berkeley cites results of a General Motors study on older drivers which found that 30% of stroke victims with physical disabilities could regain the skills necessary to drive safely.

The difficulties posed by impaired seniors who continue to drive are complex and challenging. We will discuss more transportation strategies in a future Elder Law Issues.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.