Are older drivers at greater risk for accidents? How Age Impacts Driving Ability
South Florida’s year-round sunshine makes it a popular retirement spot and destination for “snow birds.” Part of living in a state with such a high population of older drivers is acknowledging and recognizing the effects of aging on a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle.
Many mature drivers in Florida qualify as perfectly safe and courteous drivers. Unfortunately, some drivers continue to operate a vehicle beyond the point of safety both for themselves and others. When this happens, the chances increase for serious and fatal accident injuries.
How Aging Can Impact a Person’s Ability to Safely Drive
The U.S. Department of Transportation has found older drivers may be considered a driving risk for two primary reasons, the:
- side effects of prescription medications; and
- impact of age-related degenerative diseases and health conditions.
Statistics from leading traffic safety organizations show auto accidents are a leading cause of accidental death for senior citizens.
How Medications Impact Older Drivers
According to AAA, many older drivers take one or more medications that could impact the ability to drive safely.
Some of the potential side effects of medications include:
- blurred vision;
- lethargy or sleepiness;
- slow reflexes; and
- delayed reactions.
Medications – including over-the-counter drugs and supplements – may interact in unpredictable ways. This has the potential to negatively impact a senior’s ability to drive.
Age-Related Degenerative Conditions and Safe Driving
The National Cooperative Highway Safety Research Program found a number of ways in which aging can impact skills and senses necessary for safe driving, including:
- poor vision (a senior may be more sensitive to glare, suffer from decreased visual acuity and suffer from poor depth perception or loss of peripheral vision);
- memory loss;
- decreased attention span;
- inability to quickly assess risks and process driving situations;
- loss of flexibility (may be brought on by arthritis or other conditions and can impact ability to turn head sufficiently to check blind spots or other hazards); and
- loss of strength (can make it difficult to safely steer a vehicle).
Of these conditions and health-related concerns, vision numbers among the most common factor in age-related accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports vision problems are more common than many other relevant driver medical conditions.
State licensing organizations can demand senior drivers submit to vision tests to receive a license or renewal, but that does not prevent drivers from operating without necessary visual aids.
Signs an Older Driver May No Longer Be a Safe Driver
Friends, family members and caregivers should be aware of and recognize when an older driver is no longer fit to drive.
Below are a few signs that it may be time to hang up the keys:
- the driver acts timid or nervous in driving conditions;
- lots of dents, dings and scratches on the car;
- mixing up the gas and brake pedals;
- missing traffic signs or signals without realizing it; and
- near-misses or an increase in minor fender benders, such as parking lot collisions.
Were you recently injured in a car accident caused by a senior driver? Contact the personal injury attorneys at Chalik & Chalik to learn more about your rights. Call (954) 476-1000 or complete our evaluation form.