10 Nov

Are Older Drivers More Likely To Cause Florida Car Accidents?

General, Tips

older drivers

Florida is a retirement destination for seniors all across the world; it’s only second to California when it comes to states with the highest population of people aged 65 or older. Some seniors have made Florida their permanent home; some are “snowbirds” and only live here for part of the year. Now, there do tend to be more car accidents during the winter months in Florida (the months that there are more snowbirds, and thus, older drivers). 

But are older drivers more likely to cause Florida car accidents? The answer is yes…and no. 

It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with snowbirds and winter – there are too many factors (like increased tourism across the board, unfamiliarity with the area, more traffic hours in darkness, and increased holiday travel/shopping) to definitively say that the increase is due to elderly drivers. 

However, even not during snowbird months, according to a recent Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) study, drivers 65 and older are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash. FDOT also says, though, that research shows the older the drivers are in Florida, the fewer crashes they are in. 

There are many reasons that could explain why the statistic seems a bit contradictory. For one thing, older drivers may not be on the roads as much. Just because a senior has a driver’s license and drives does not mean that they drive as frequently as a younger person (who may have work to commute to, and/or kids to drop off and pick up from school and extracurriculars). For another, it doesn’t necessarily say that older drivers are twice as likely to be the culprit in fatal crashes; seniors are physically less resilient than younger people and may be more susceptible to serious injuries sustained in a collision. 

Yet the statistic should be a wake-up call for elderly drivers and their families. Elderly drivers are more at risk for things like decreased vision, slower reaction times, cognitive decline, reduced motor skills, and more. 

What Is Florida doing about unsafe elderly drivers?

Florida laws require drivers who are 80 and older to renew their licenses every six years, as opposed to younger drivers who can renew every eight. These drivers also have to pass a vision test. Florida DHSMV (Department Of Safety And Motor Vehicles) also accepts notices of unsafe elderly drivers; these notices are kept confidential, but doctors, family members, neighbors, and others may be interviewed, and more medical testing may be required to clear the driver to be on the roads. 

If an elderly driver doesn’t do well on their test, or is found to have other infirmities which may make them an unsafe presence on the roads, one of two things may happen. 

In many cases, the DHSMV will discuss their situation with them. They will still be allowed to drive, but with some restrictions imposed. They may need to wear glasses or contacts. They may need to get an additional side mirror. They may need to drive an automatic vehicle, with power steering and mechanical directional signals. They may need to wear a hearing aid while driving. They may be prohibited from driving at night. They may need to get a steering wheel with a grip and get pedal extensions. 

In some cases, they may need to take training classes specifically for older drivers to be able to drive independently again, but the classes also have the benefit of helping older drivers qualify for reductions in insurance costs. 


What can you do?

If you have an older family member who is a good driver…

For the most part, nothing! However, they may not be aware of certain safety features they could have if they got a different vehicle (newer cars have blind spot warnings, increased crash protections, and more). Because the statistics show that older drivers are more at risk for serious injury in a crash, you can talk to them about making sure that their vehicle will adequately protect them in the event that someone else causes a collision. You can even help them by doing research online, as some older drivers may not be familiar with all of the options and technologies available to them! 

If you have an older family member who should probably not be driving…

This is always a hard situation – your parent, or grandparent, or aunt/uncle is at a point where you worry about them being a danger to themselves and others on the road. Maybe they are just becoming more physically infirm, or maybe they are starting to forget things or exhibit some other troubling mental signs. However, they may be stubborn, and you don’t want to hurt their feelings or completely take away their independence. 

The first step is to have an honest, gentle conversation with them. You can bring other family members into it so it’s not just you asking them to stop or reduce their driving. It’s best to have some proof of what your concerns are, so they can have something to consider. And it’s always important to reassure them that they will still be able to go out – you and the other family members will work out a system, or they can use ridesharing services, so they don’t feel that their independence is suddenly being taken away from them. 

However, if they still refuse to give up the keys, you may have to resort to other methods. Don’t feel guilty about what you and the other family members decide together is right to do; you are keeping them and others safe, and potentially saving their life or others’ lives. You may need to anonymously report them to the DHSMV. If they have dementia or Alzheimer’s, you may need to remove the car and mentions of driving so that they forget and don’t get angry. You can also arrange for a younger relative or friend or family member to have an urgent need to “borrow” the car; you can say that the car needs repairs or is in the shop; you can “lose” the keys. Some of these strategies may seem extreme, or unethical, so it is up to you and your family to determine the right thing to do. 

If you experience an unsafe elderly driver on the road….

If you see an older driver on the roads who is driving erratically or endangering others, you should call 9-1-1 or the police (depending on where you are in relation to the driver and the urgency of the situation). They will likely be evaluated, if their age was what contributed to the behavior. 

If you are involved in a collision with an older driver that they caused…

If you get into an accident that another elderly driver caused, you should always first make sure that they are okay, and then call the police to get a formal crash report and seek medical attention for yourself (even if you don’t feel injured – it’s better to be safe!).  If you were injured, you have the right to seek financial compensation from their insurance company. It won’t be harming them to make a claim, as their insurer will be the one who pays! 

The Florida Law Group has been helping injured accident victims in Florida seek compensation for auto accident injuries for over 38 years. Call us today if you need legal assistance to find out what we can do for you!