With people in the United States living longer due to advances in medicine and quality of life, we see an increase in the number of older drivers on the nation’s roadways as well. In 2007, 13 percent of the total population of the United States, or 38 million people, were people age 65 and older. Of those 38 million people, about 80 percent were licensed drivers. We have seen almost a 20 percent increase in licensed older drivers in the last decade. Almost 15 percent of all licensed drivers on the road today are over the age of 65. Sadly, these older drivers account for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities, 14 percent of all vehicle occupant fatalities and 19 percent of all pedestrian fatalities as well. Not surprisingly, these statistics go up as the age of the driver goes up. For drivers in the 65-69 year old age group, they were involved in approximately 13 fatal accidents per 100,000 people while drivers in the 80-84 year old age group were involved in approximately 19 fatal accidents per 100,000 people.
What causes older drivers to be at a disproportionate risk of being involved in a collision? For starters, younger drivers drive more aggressively and are more likely to collide with the slower moving older driver. In two-vehicle fatal crashes with an older and a younger driver, the older driver was twice as likely to be the vehicle that was struck.. Additionally, research has shown that older drivers show poor judgment in making left hand turns. Older drivers were involved in accidents when turning left five times more often than younger drivers. Older drivers also have a tendency to drift within the lane creating a higher risk of coming in contact with other vehicles traveling the same direction or being involved in an even more dangerous head-on collision. Lastly, older drivers have a decreased ability to react rapidly to changing road or traffic conditions. Unfortunately, as we age we are unable to assimilate information as quickly as when we are younger. Once assimilated, we also require more time to physically react to the information we have processed. This, in turn, creates a higher risk for the older driver on today’s crowded and fast moving roadways.
What can you do to keep your older relatives and yourself safe on the road? Some states are requiring older drivers to retest if they have been involved in recent accidents. Other states are considering laws that would require physicians to report patients that they believe suffer from disabilities that may impair their driving. Both of these steps may be necessary. Understandably, most older drivers do not want to voluntarily relinquish their driving privileges. They view driving as their independence. No one wants to take away their independence, but it may save their life or yours. What we can all do to help keep our elders safe is simply slow down, be more considerate and give them the respect they deserve. Are we really in such a hurry that we can’t slow down for the gentleman in the car in front of us? After all, he could be your grandfather.
If you have been involved in an accident and would like further information, contact the law offices of Ledger & Associates at 1-800-300-0001 or visit us at www.ledgerlaw.com.