Elderly Drivers and Car Accidents: Addressing Safety Concerns and Challenges
Elderly drivers are an increasing demographic in the great state of Florida, likely due to the fact that it’s a popular place to settle after retirement. Unfortunately, the increase in the number of elderly drivers on the road has led to safety concerns for all drivers. In 2022, it was found that 23.35% of drivers are 65 years or older in age. The reason that this is a concern is that a large majority of senior drivers are responsible for causing car accidents due to several contributing factors that limit their driving abilities. It’s important for elderly drivers and their family members to be aware of the associated risks so that strategies to promote safer driving habits amongst elderly drivers can be implemented.
Understanding The Risks And Statistics
Elderly drivers face several unique risks when driving on the road due to age-related cognitive and physical abilities. Some of the risks include:
- Decreased vision – aging can lead to the deterioration of a driver’s visual abilities. This is because our light reception (what allows us to see) is impaired as we age because our eyes become less sensitive to light. Therefore peripheral vision, depth perception, and acuity are all affected. This can keep elderly drivers from being able to see street signs, street lights, and the cars around them. Without the appropriate eyesight, elderly drivers could cause extreme danger to themselves and others on the road. In a study of U.S. drivers, it was found that the most frequent error made by drivers aged 70 and up was inadequate surveillance (seeing but failing to look). This can presumably be due to the decrease in their visual acuity. Auditory impairments can also be a hazard if you can’t hear horns or sirens from other cars or first responders.
- Slow reaction time – aging can also limit an elderly driver’s ability to react accordingly. This means that if someone abruptly stops, pulls out in front of you, changes lanes, or there’s a hazard in the road, they might not be able to react appropriately to avoid a collision. While this can change who’s at-fault, it’s still dangerous for all involved parties. Reaction time can also be dependent upon other factors aside from age like physical abilities and attuned motor skills.
- Reduced physical functionality – There are age related conditions like arthritis, reduced muscle strength and more that can hinder an elderly driver’s physical abilities like pressing the gas or brakes, turning on their blinkers or windshield wipers, turning the wheel, looking behind them and more. An inability to execute these necessary functions can quickly create a hazardous situation.
- Cognitive decline – In a study done by the University of Iowa, it states that there are several cognitive functions that are needed to drive safely, including memory, decision-making, and perceptual motor skills. It also states that those with Alzheimer’s disease are known to become unsafe drivers, though that knowledge isn’t enough to restrict driving privileges.
- Medication side effects – Because older adults are more likely to be taking more medications for general health or health concerns, it’s important to be aware of the effects that they can have on the body. Some medications can’t and shouldn’t be taken when operating a vehicle because they can impair the driver and limit cognitive abilities, general awareness and adversely affect driving performance.
Some elderly drivers may also develop a fear of driving due to previous incidents which decreases their confidence in driving and ultimately hinders their abilities more.
Strategies For Limiting These Risks & Promoting Safety On The Roads
- Regular medical and visual check-ups
- Awareness and openness about driving abilities
- Using glasses and corrective lenses if your eyesight is impaired
- Arrange for alternative means of transportation
- Take a driver’s safety course for a refresher
- And more!
Driving Retirement: What Is It & When Should It Be Considered?
If you find yourself having safety concerns about your loved one’s driving ability as an elderly driver, it might be time to discuss a plan for them to retire from driving. While this might be difficult, it is crucial to ensure their safety on the road. However, it’s completely normal for them to have hesitations about retiring from driving as they might feel that it’s too soon and they’re perfectly capable of driving fine. Reminding your loved ones that creating a plan for retiring from driving isn’t to take away any freedoms or privileges, but to find alternative solutions to their transportation needs and maintain a high quality of life. Below are some tips for initiating the conversation:
- Bring it up before safety is a real issue.
- Encourage them to attend regular checkups for health and vision
- Keep an eye out for any signs of aging that can impair their driving abilities
- Explain their options for alternative methods of transportation
- Help them normalize the transitions by finding ways for them to still maintain daily routines
- Understand that this might be an emotional transition for them and be supportive.
How The Florida Law Group Can Help You
The Florida Law Group is one of the state’s oldest and most reputable personal injury law firms around. We’ve been recognized across the nation by some of the most prestigious legal organizations and that’s because we get results! Our personal injury attorneys have 100+ years of experience helping clients file personal injury claims and recover the damages that they deserve. We’ve recovered over $1 billion dollars on behalf of our clients since 1984. If you’ve been injured by an elderly driver, or are an elderly driver yourself and believe you are not at fault for a car accident, our car accident injury attorneys can help you seek compensation for the injuries you’ve sustained. Call today to schedule a free, confidential consultation and learn more about your next steps!