Traffic accident reports show elderly drivers are responsible for 14% of traffic deaths and 17% of pedestrian deaths caused by motor vehicles.
Aging Behind the Wheel
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, elderly drivers only account for approximately 9% of the country’s population, but account for at least 14% of fatal car crashes and 17% of pedestrian fatalities. In 2016, over 200,000 elderly drivers ages 65 and older were seriously injured and over 3,500 were killed in motor vehicle accidents.
A recent report by the American Automobile Association (AAA) shows that fatality rates for drivers between 75 and 85 are equivalent to fatality rates for teenage drivers with little driving experience. When elderly drivers pass the age of 85, the risks of causing deadly car accidents jumps significantly. At age 85, crash fatality rates rise four times higher than rates for teen drivers with unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding, ignoring traffic signals, and driving while impaired on alcohol or drugs.
There are daily news reports of elderly drivers crashing through store windows or crowds of people because the driver accidentally hits the gas pedal instead of the brakes. This highlights many challenges that aging drivers face when it’s time to get off the road. After driving for most of his or her adult life, an aging driver may be reluctant to hand over the car keys. However, older drivers often have poor driving skills, slower reflexes, and impaired vision and hearing. For many elderly drivers, the loss of driving privileges represents a loss of independence they are not yet willing to give up.
Talking About Safety with Aging Drivers
AAA studies on aging drivers show only 17% talk to doctors or family members about driving safety, even if they feel unsafe behind the wheel. AAA recommends that families begin discussions about driving safety with elderly loved ones before seeing “red flags” like dents and scratches on the car and worsening health conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and rheumatoid arthritis that may impact driving skills. Car accident lawyers often encounter injuries caused by drivers taking prescription medications that impair decision-making skills, judgment, and coordination. AAA recommends early discussions on aging and driving safety to prevent car accidents and ensure an easier transition for elderly friends and family members.