Senior drivers and car accidents: what motorists need to know

Law Offices of Steven Zwick
Jan 31 2019

Although we’d all like to believe that we’re safe drivers 100% of the time, we can all make mistakes while behind the wheel. Unfortunately, the chance of making such an error tends to increase as we grow older. We may not be able to escape the effects of time, but we can take steps to prevent age related car accidents and educate ourselves on what to do if we’re hurt in such an accident.

Are Senior Citizens More Likely to Be Involved in Car Accidents?

On the one hand, older drivers have a wealth of experience that can allow them to make better decisions than the average driver. However, any personal injury lawyer will tell you that physical and mental decline can impact a driver’s ability to stay safe behind the wheel. Older individuals do have an increased risk of being involved in a collision. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there were 42 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older throughout the nation in 2016. That same year, approximately 7,400 seniors were killed in car crashes and more than 290,000 seniors were treated in emergency departments for crash-related injuries. Drivers aged 70 and up have an increased risk of being involved in fatal crashes, with drivers aged 85 and older having the highest risk.

What Makes Elderly Drivers More Prone to Crash Injuries?

It’s important to note that seniors are more likely to experience symptoms of physical and cognitive decline, both of which can have a significant impact on their ability to be considered a safe driver. Problems with vision, hearing, memory, reflexes, physical strength, and reasoning can make driving much more difficult and hazardous. In addition, potential side effects from medication may have an adverse effect on seniors’ driving capabilities.

Not only are senior drivers prone to physical and mental impairments, but they may also experience more substantial medical complications following a crash. The injuries sustained by some elderly car accident victims might not prove fatal to a younger driver who is in excellent health. But an older driver may have a much more difficult time healing from such an injury or may simply not be able to survive those impacts due to being in a more fragile physical state.

What Can Seniors Do to Prevent Motor Vehicle Accidents?

Seniors who are in good health may want to take a defensive driving course geared towards older motorists. Not only can this keep both you and other motorists safe on the road, but you may even be able to reduce your car insurance payments as a result. Many older adults also choose to invest in vehicles with high safety ratings and features that can prevent accidents, such as back-up cameras, lane drifting detection, and automatic emergency braking.

Both seniors and their loved ones need to make awareness a priority. Although giving up one’s driving privileges will never be a happy errand, understanding the signs that someone is no longer a safe driver can help make this decision easier. If a senior has become noticeably more distracted or has a tendency to get lost more easily, has difficulty seeing traffic signals and signs, misjudges traffic, mixes up the pedals, or has had other close calls (near-missed crashes, warnings from law enforcement, drowsy driving incidents), it’s important to take an honest assessment of their abilities and come up with a solution that provides safety for everyone involved — before anyone needs to call a personal injury lawyer.

What Should You Do if You’re Hurt in a Collision?

In some car accident cases, drivers may share equal blame and may not sustain injuries. Accidents involving seniors, however, may quickly become complicated and filled with healthcare concerns. Remember: approximately 52% of all personal injury cases involve motor vehicle accidents. Whether a senior is at fault or has experienced the brunt of the injuries, it’s imperative that you seek out medical treatment and help from a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. For more information on how our personal injury lawyers can help you after a crash, please contact us today.