Car Accidents Involving Elderly Drivers
Driving allows older individuals a sense of freedom and independence. For many seniors, being able to go wherever they please, whenever they please is integral to their daily lives. However, as the population continues to age and people live longer lives, the number of car accidents involving elderly drivers is likely to increase.
If your loved one was injured by an elderly driver, or if your older relative was in a serious accident, you may benefit from having experienced legal help on your side. Call (615) 338-9500 to speak to an attorney at Labrum Law today.
Do Elderly Drivers Cause More Accidents?
According to the United States Census data, there were 43 million Americans over the age of 65 in 2012. As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, this number is expected to increase significantly. By 2050, it will double to over 83 million people. As a result, issues that affect older drivers will become considerably more important in the near future.
Elderly drivers have one of the highest rates of fatalities in car accidents, second only to newly-licensed teenagers. According to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, although people over the age of 65 are much more likely to drive safely, for example, by not speeding or driving while intoxicated, older drivers are still more likely to die or be seriously injured in a car accident than their younger counterparts. Drivers aged 80-84 have the highest rate of traffic fatalities per 100,000 people than any other age group.
Whether or not elderly drivers cause more accidents than younger drivers is less clear.
Causes of Elderly Driving Accidents
Older drivers can be victims of negligence, similar to drivers of any other age. However, there are several reasons why elderly drivers may cause accidents themselves due to physical or mental changes that can affect their ability to drive.
Changes in Vision
As people age, their vision declines. With age, the lenses of the eye become inflexible and cloudy, making it difficult to see clearly or focus on objects. Night vision also worsens, and older people have a harder time adjusting to changing light conditions. Cataracts may form, which can make vision blurry. While all of these eye conditions can be treated, the deterioration can be gradual and many older drivers may not be aware that their vision has worsened.
Changes in Mental Status
As people get older, they can be affected by several types of diseases or illnesses that can affect their cognition. Conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's disease have a gradual impact on a person's memory. Elderly people may get lost or confused about where they are while driving, which might lead them to misinterpret an intersection or drive the wrong way down a road. In addition, older individuals are susceptible to a variety of medical conditions which may require medications that can cause drowsiness or impair a driver's ability to make decisions quickly or react to changing traffic conditions.
Changes in Physical Ability
As people age, they often lose strength and their reflexes slow down. Older drivers may not be able to quickly react physically enough to avoid an accident. Common conditions like arthritis may affect a driver's ability to grip the wheel, shift, or depress a vehicle's pedals. In an emergency, an older driver's lack of strength or delayed reaction time may have serious consequences.
Preventing Accidents Involving Elderly Drivers
It is not uncommon for older individuals to change the way they drive based on their declining physical or mental abilities. For example, older people may avoid driving at night due to changes in their vision. Elderly people are also less likely to drive in general than people younger than them.
However, while taking such precautions is a reasonable step, it does not prevent accidents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that while older people may drive less frequently, they are more likely to get into an accident when they do drive. Accidents involving senior drivers are also more likely to happen in the daytime and during the weekdays in comparison to younger drivers.
Age-related conditions often come on slowly, and a person may not notice that their driving skills have deteriorated until they have caused an accident. While many states have enacted legislation requiring more driver's license renewals and testing for people over a certain age, Tennessee has not enacted any legislation addressing this issue. Like everyone else, senior citizens are only required to renew their license every eight years.
As a result, the family, friends, and caregivers of a senior citizen will often become aware of changes in their loved one's abilities long before the state licensing agency decides not to renew their license. When an elderly driver refuses to stop driving, that person's loved ones may need to make difficult decisions to prevent that person from driving and causing an accident.
Get Help After an Accident Involving an Elderly Driver
A driver's age does not change their responsibility to other people on the road. Like all drivers, seniors have a duty to avoid reckless or negligent behavior. This means recognizing when their physical or mental abilities have diminished to the point to be hazardous to other people. If an individual can no longer operate a vehicle safely, it is that person's responsibility to turn over the keys to someone else.
If you believe your loved one is no longer safe to drive, it is important to work with that person to find alternative forms of transportation. While many older people are resistant to losing their freedom, an older driver who causes an accident will be just as liable for the injuries they cause as someone younger.
Not every older person is unsafe on the road, and an elderly driver may still be able to recover compensation for their injuries even in situations where their physical or mental condition may have contributed to the collision. Tennessee follows the rule of comparative negligence in personal injury cases. This means that if a driver is not more than 49% at fault for causing a car accident, they may still be entitled to recover financial compensation for their losses and injuries.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Today
Car accidents involving elderly drivers can be complicated. If your older loved one was injured in an accident, or you were injured by an elderly driver, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries and other expenses. Consider contacting the knowledgeable attorneys at Labrum Law by calling (615) 338-9500 to learn more about your options.