Everyone knows that young drivers, those under 21 and those in their early twenties, are at the highest risk dying in a Kansas City car crash.  It is true that more Missouri traffic accidents occur among drivers under 25 than in any other age group.   What many people don’t know is that elderly drivers also account for a disproportionate number of traffic fatalities.  When estimated annual travel is taken into account, the fatality rate for drivers 85 and over is nine times as high as the rate for drivers ages 25 through 69 years old.
How does aging affect the abilities of elderly drivers?
Most elderly drivers are safe drivers.  But, some driving skills decline with age.  As one ages, there may be: 
• A slowdown in response time
• A loss of clarity in vision and hearing
• A loss of muscle strength and flexibility
• Drowsiness due to medications
• A reduction in the ability to focus or concentrate
• Lower tolerance for alcohol
However, experience and patience may make some elderly individuals safer drivers as they age. 
Family and care givers should periodically evaluate their elder family members driving skills to determine if they should limit or stop driving.  

Signs of unsafe driving include:

• Driving at inappropriate speeds, either too fast or too slow
• Asking passengers to help check if it is clear to pass or turn
• Responding slowly to or not noticing pedestrians, bicyclists and other drivers
• Ignoring, disobeying or misinterpreting street signs and traffic lights
• Failing to yield to other cars or pedestrians who have the right-of-way
• Failing to correctly judge distances between cars
• Becoming frustrated and angry
• Appearing  drowsy, confused or frightened
• Being involved in one or more near accidents or near misses
• Drifting across lane markings or bumping into curbs
• Forgetting to turn on headlights after dusk
• Having difficulty with glare from oncoming headlights, streetlights, or other bright or shiny objects, especially at dawn or dusk and at night
• Having difficulty turning head, neck, shoulders or body while driving or parking
• Ignoring signs of mechanical problems, including underinflated tires
• Not having enough strength to turn the wheel quickly in an emergency such as a tire failure, a pedestrian in traffic, a skid, etc.
• Getting lost frequently, even in familiar areas?
If your loved one shows any of the above signs of decreased ability to drive, there may be medical issues affecting your family member’s driving skills.  Elderly drivers should have their hearing, vision and reflexes tested annually.   
In addition, they should check that their medications are not affecting their driving ability.
Drivers who show the listed signs may not have to stop driving immediately or lose their independence, but they  may need to adjust their driving habits. Some suggestions:
• Avoid driving at night and, if possible, at dawn or dusk
• Drive only to familiar locations
• Avoid driving to places far away from home
• Avoid expressways (freeways) and rush hour traffic
• Leave plenty of time to get where they are going
• Don't drive alone
• Consider other forms of transportation
If you feel strongly that your loved one cannot drive safely, you may need to enlist their doctor’s help to get them to stop driving.
The Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys hopes this article keeps your loved one safe on the road.

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.