Hundreds of thousands of seniors are hurt or killed in car accidents each year. More than 200,000 drivers over the age of 65 were injured in crashes in 2016, over 3,500 were fatal. Seniors are some of the safest drivers- they are more likely to wear seat-belts, drive sober, and observe speed limits. Yet they are more likely to die in a car crash than other age groups. Behind teenage drivers, seniors have the highest crash death rate per mile driven. With the population living longer, AAA researchers have found that older drivers are now outliving the age when they can drive safely by 7-10 years. In Rhode Island alone, 20% of drivers are over age 65. The personal injury lawyers at Tapalian Law are always concerned about safe driving habits. After all, we see clients every day, from new teenage drivers to senior citizens, who suffer from serious car accident related injuries. Our RI injury attorneys know the life-long implications car accident injuries can have on a victim. An aging person’s body is not as agile and flexible as it once was and may not heal from injuries as quickly as a younger person, further complicating the recovery process. It may be a difficult or embarrassing topic to broach with aging parents. And that’s probably why over 80% of aging drivers never talk to a doctor or family member about it. Typically, when they do it is often too late and happens after a crash or near-collision while on the road.
Why Are Seniors More Likely to Die in Car Crashes?
Fatality rates for older drivers are 17% higher than for 25-64-year-old drivers. Seniors are more likely to die in a car crash than younger people, largely due to having more fragile bodies and underlying medical conditions that can worsen injuries and hinder recovery. But it’s not just the plain fact of old age that can impair older drivers and cause auto accidents. Many other aspects of aging can impede safe driving habits. As personal injury accident lawyers, we see medication side effects or health circumstances frequently factor into car accidents involving older adults. Over 75% of drivers age 65 and older use one or more medication which can potentially impact their driving ability. As we age, it is common to experience vision changes, hearing loss, delayed reaction time, and mind and cognition impairment. Weaker muscles, decreased flexibility, and reduced range of motion can affect and restrict the ability to hold and turn a steering wheel and press the gas or brake. Arthritis affects half of the middle-aged population and 80% of those in their 70’s. It can cause crippling joint inflammation making the turning, flexing, and twisting needed to operate a motor vehicle and react quickly, painful or physically impossible.