Seniors Outliving Safe Driving Age by 7-10 Years, says AAA

photo_103920_20170708-225x300Hundreds 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.

Senior Driver’s License Laws Vary from State to State 

  • Rhode Island Senior Driver Licensing Laws
    • Ages 75 and over- must renew driver’s license in person and pass a vision test every 2 years. 
  • Massachusetts Senior Driver Licensing Laws
    • Ages 75 and older- must renew driver’s license in person and take a vision test every 5 years. 

What Can Concerned Family Members Do to Help Aging Drivers?

There is no set age that determines when it is no longer safe to drive. Rather it depends on the individual. Underlying medical conditions and/or the medication used to treat the condition frequently impair a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Impaired senses of vision, and reduced depth perception can cause drowsiness at the wheel and an inability to stay in a traffic lane. It’s prudent to regularly check on the driving patterns of aging parents and other senior drivers in our lives. Safety features available in newer cars today can optimize the comfort and safety of the aging population. Ergonomic and design features like adjustable peddles and seats can reduce driver fatigue and discomfort. Larger control buttons, expanded legroom, and automatic seat positioning can also help.

Warning Signs of an Unsafe Driver

If you have concerns about the driving of an aging parent or other senior in your life, there are some warning signs to look out for provided by AAA. These warning signs may signal that the driver is a safety concern to themselves and others on the road and it may be time to consider alternative ways for them to get around safely.

  • Received 2 or more traffic tickets or warnings in the past 2 years. Tickets are a big predictor that a driver is at a greater risk for collision.
  • Been involved in 2 or more collisions or “near-misses” in the past 2 years. Diminished skills, depth perception, and reaction time can result in rear-end crashes, parking lot fender benders, and side impact crashes when crossing traffic. 

If a senior in your life is no longer safe to drive, the loss of freedom, mobility and feeling isolated at home can lead to depression. It is wise to research alternative transportation options. Providence, Rhode Island does not have as extensive public transportation as larger cities like Boston or New York, so one might also need to consider shuttle services provided by senior centers, buses, taxis, carpooling with neighbors, ride-sharing options like Uber, or services that provide specially equipped rides to the disabled.

Contact Tapalian Law if You Are Hurt in a Car Crash

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, it’s imperative to take immediate action and seek medical attention for injuries related to your Rhode Island car accident or Massachusetts car crash. It is especially vital that older adults seek medical treatment immediately, even if they don’t seem to be hurt or don’t think they are hurt. Internal injuries from an auto collision, like internal bleeding, often go unnoticed but can be deadly. Even minor injuries involving a frail adult or one suffering from underlying medical conditions can quickly become grave and life-threatening. Contact an experienced RI personal injury attorney who specializes in RI car crashes and MA car accidents. Attorney David Tapalian helps personal injury clients seek the compensation they deserve for their damages. Call Tapalian Law today for a free consultation of your legal case at 401-552-5000, or email our Providence office.

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