eldery_woman_drivingThe tragic death of an 89-year-old driver on I-435 in Lanexa in 2017 left many people wondering if older drivers should be driving at all.

In this case, it appears the elderly driver wasn't aware that traffic had slowed in front of him, and he rammed into the back of a dump truck.

Although no one else was injured in the truck accident, it raised concerns that older drivers are less attentive and may be posing a risk to other drivers. However, data from various organizations tells us that, while older drivers are more likely to be injured and killed in motor vehicle accidents, they're actually one of the safest group of drivers.

Safety Habits of Older Drivers

One thing is for sure—there are more drivers older than 65 on the roads than ever before. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over the last 10 years, there's been a 29 percent increase in older drivers in the U.S. A total of 47.8 million senior drivers currently hold a valid driver’s license—approximately 14 percent of all licensed drivers. This might cause concern for those who believe that older drivers are a danger to other motorists, but the reality is that they are safer than other age groups of drivers.

According to AAA, senior drivers do the following at higher rates than younger drivers:

  • Wear seatbelts
  • Observe the speed limit
  • Avoid drinking and driving
  • Avoid highway and long-distance driving
  • Avoid night driving
  • Don't drive during rush hour or in inclement weather

While drivers over 65 do tend to take more safety precautions than younger drivers, they can also suffer from age-related medical conditions that put them at an increased risk for injury or death when they're in a car accident.

Why Seniors Die at Higher Rates Than Other Drivers

According to AAA, fatal crash rates increase beginning at age 75 and rise sharply after age 80. However, the organization notes this is mainly due to increased risk of injury and medical complications, rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes.

Because many older people have physical frailties, they are more vulnerable to injuries—including fatal injuries—than younger drivers when involved in a collision. While older drivers were on the road for significantly fewer miles than other age groups, they made up 18 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2015. Clearly, we should all be concerned about this population of drivers, even if they're not the threat to public safety that many people believe.

Taking the time to talk to your older loved ones and, if you are over 65, to assess your driving ability on a regular basis, can go far to protect everyone on the road.

Be Aware of Driving Limitations as You or Your Loved Ones Age

NHTSA provides a very helpful self-assessment guide for senior drivers. If you're concerned about a loved one’s driving—or simply want to be proactive about your skills, take a look at the following questions:

  • How is your eyesight? If you have trouble reading signs or seeing street markings, see an eye doctor to make sure your prescription is current. If it is and you still have trouble seeing, it may be time to give up the keys.
  • Do you have control of your vehicle? If you feel you no longer have the strength and flexibility to turn the wheel, look over your shoulder, and firmly apply the brakes, you should consult with your doctor about your ability to drive.
  • Does driving make you feel nervous? If you regularly feel scared or overwhelmed while driving, talk to your doctor about your medications, try sticking to routes you know well, and avoiding nighttime driving.
  • Are loved ones concerned? Don’t take it the wrong way if a friend or family member comments on your driving. Often, others notice mistakes you are making before you do. You might want to enroll in a senior driving class or have someone ride along with you to assess your driving.

Have You Been Injured In A Kansas City Area Car Accident?

If you've been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.

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