As people age, it’s common to see a change in motor skills and reflexes that can negatively impact their abilities behind the wheel of a car. While there’s no specific age when a person should stop driving, older adults are more likely to be involved in accidents and receive traffic tickets than younger drivers, and drivers over 70 are at an increased risk of a fatal crash. Consequently, it’s important to know the causes and warning signs of unsafe driving in elders.
Common Causes of Accidents Involving Elderly Drivers
Aging can lead to a decline in reaction time and vision that can directly affect the ability to drive safely. As a result, common motor vehicle accidents involving elderly drivers include:
- Faulty estimates of available time to turn in front of oncoming traffic
- Problems merging into traffic and changing lanes
- Inability to consistently stay in a lane
- Inability to react quickly to unexpected or sudden roadway hazards
- Miscalculation of allotted space while parking or navigating dense areas
Indicators of Unsafe Driving in the Elderly
As drivers age, they may fail to realize they’re no longer driving in a safe and reliable way. While all drivers are encouraged to evaluate their driving abilities objectively, you may need to step in to assess the driving capability of a loved one. There are several warning signs to indicate that an elderly driver may no longer be able to drive safely, including:
- Impaired muscle control
- Tendency to drift or change lanes unexpectedly
- Tendency to become lost or confused while navigating once familiar areas
- Trouble parking or gauging distances from cars and other obstacles
- Inability to remain awake and alert for long periods of time
- History of negligent driving behavior
In the state of Virginia, a person must renew his driver’s license every 8 years. However, a Virginia driver who is 75 or older must seek a license renewal every 5 years and must receive a 20/40 minimum vision score. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can conduct a medical review to determine driver safety and license eligibility, and it offers a mature operators safety course to refresh existing driving skills and teach new or updated traffic laws. In some cases, violators of traffic rules may be required to take this course.
How Older Drivers Can Stay Safe on the Road
Many recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for elderly drivers aren’t significantly different from recommendations for younger drivers. Precautions listed for older drivers and motor vehicle safety include common practices such as wearing a seatbelt, minimizing distractions, and avoiding inclement weather. Other suggestions include:
- Exercising to improve flexibility and strength
- Planning ahead of time to use the safest, easiest route
- Leaving a larger gap between the driver’s car and other vehicles
- Utilizing other modes of transportation (public transportation, walking to nearby destinations, or carpooling with a friend or relative)
- Staying home during inclement weather or while taking medications that may impair driving ability
When You’re in an Accident With an Elderly Driver
If you have been injured in an accident, seek medical attention immediately. If you are able, you may consider compiling pertinent information for insurance purposes while at the scene such as photos of the accident and contact information from eyewitnesses. When communicating with other parties, including friends and relatives, do not admit fault in order to preserve the integrity of your claim. It is generally in a victim’s best interest to seek the counsel of a personal injury attorney before giving accounts of the event.
Accidents can be scary and stressful. If you were injured in a car wreck due to negligence or an elderly driver, it is important that you have a personal injury attorney you can trust to get you the settlement you deserve. If you have additional questions about your personal injury claim and would like to meet with an experienced personal injury attorney, contact the lawyers at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi.