Elderly Drivers Face Greater Risks on the Road

The risk of suffering serious injury in a car accident increases sharply beginning at age 70.

The risk of suffering serious injury in a car accident increases sharply beginning at age 70. Recently, royal watching media outlets were all abuzz about captured shots of England’s Queen Elizabeth taking a Sunday drive in her Jaguar X-type through Windsor Great Park. Typically chauffeured, the soon to be 90-year-old monarch slipped behind the wheel herself for the drive to church. But the beloved ruler known for obsessively minding her royal Ps and Qs seemed oblivious to the rules of driving imposed upon the regular folk when she nonchalantly veered her car onto a grass verge to avoid hitting a young family strolling through the park. The episode largely was met with amusement and affection. After all, no one was hurt and it’s arguable that the odd move was not due to any loss in ability but rather to the fact that she is, indeed, the Queen and enjoys all the pertinent perks. But it also prompted a wider discussion about the inherent risks associated with elderly drivers, both Across the Pond and here in the United States. While driving is credited with helping many elder citizens to remain mobile and independent, the benefits come with a risk to not only older drivers but those on the roadways around them, too. Consider the statistics:

  • In 2012, there were upward of 36 million licensed drivers age 65 or older in the United States, a 34-percent increase from 1999.
  • That year, more than 5,560 older adults were killed and more than 214,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents. These figures reflect 15 older adults killed and 586 injured in crashes every single day.
  • Per mile traveled, fatal accident rates increase noticeably beginning at ages 70-74 and are highest among drivers 85 and older. Experts point to increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications among older drivers, including age-related declines in vision and cognitive functioning (ability to reason and remember).

The good news is that most seniors tend to display habits that help to keep their risk for automobile accidents at bay. For instance, results of one study showed that 79 percent of older motor vehicle occupants who were involved in fatal crashes were wearing seatbelts at the time, compared to 66 percent of younger adults. Seniors also tend to drive when weather and visibility conditions are best and have a lower incidence of impaired driving. Study results revealed that just 7 percent of older drivers involved in fatal crashes had a BAC of 0.08 or greater at the time, compared to 24 percent of drivers age 21-64. If you are, or if you love a senior still behind the wheel, auto accident attorneys with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell offer these tips for reducing your risk of being involved in a crash:

  • Exercise regularly to improve and maintain strength and flexibility.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about side effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications commonly used by seniors.
  • Undergo vision screenings at least once a year and wear contacts or glasses as prescribed.
  • Restrict driving to daylight hours in clear weather.
  • Plan the safest routes with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows and easy parking.
  • Leave a large following distance behind the car in front of you.
  • Consider alternative travel modes such as catching a ride with a friend or using public transit services.

Most importantly understand the risks, take them seriously and accept that with age come both wonderful benefits and natural limitations. If you’ve suffered an injury or loss in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, age notwithstanding, call 800-251-1111 and speak with an experienced auto accident attorney.