Are Older Drivers Unsafe Drivers?
How often have you been stuck behind a driver going 15 mph under the speed limit—and when you pass him, you realize he’s a senior citizen? How many times have you taken the long way around a parking lot, just to escape an erratic elderly driver? If you’re like many motorists, you’ll do anything you can to avoid driving near an elderly driver.
But why do we do this? Are we prejudiced against older people? Or are we just impatient?
Many “young” drivers believe that older drivers are inherently more dangerous than them. However, the evidence that has been collected on the safety of older drivers isn’t as compelling for this view as one may think.
Driving Safety Hazards (and Benefits) of Getting Older
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 17 percent of traffic fatalities in the United States happen to people 65 and older. In 2013 alone, 5,671 older people were killed in traffic collisions. However, it’s important to note that these statistics don’t necessarily indicate that older drivers are more dangerous—just that they’re more susceptible to injury. To truly understand how and why older drivers may pose a threat on the road, you first need to understand the effects that aging has on drivers.
Everyone shows different signs of aging at different rates, so any generalizations we make about older people will only be true for some seniors and not others. But the general trends among most people are clear. As we age, our reflexes slow, our eyesight worsens, our cognitive function diminishes, and our muscles become less flexible. For some of us, even the simplest actions become difficult. Unfortunately, some of these actions are paramount for driving safely. For example:
- The ability to turn your head. To successfully survey traffic, you need to be able to turn your head a full 180 degrees. However, older drivers often fail to check blind spots because it hurts to turn their heads. This inability to look both ways can also increase turning risks as older drivers fail to recognize hazards around corners.
- The ability to recognize and understand potential dangers. The ability to see potential risks and respond to those risks in a timely fashion can significantly increase your chances of avoiding an accident. However, if your eyesight isn’t good and your reflexes are slow—as is the case with many senior drivers—you may not recognize the threat until it’s too late.
- The ability to maintain focus and control movements. Drivers must be able to control their minds and bodies to have any hope of controlling their vehicles. However, many older drivers take prescription and over-the-counter medicines that can impact their driving performance.
However, as a counterbalance the danger of their declining health risks, older drivers have the following safety advantages over younger drivers:
- More experience. The older the driver, the more life, driving, and safety experiences are behind the wheel. Many teenagers will make rookie driving mistakes like miscalculating the length of a yellow light or misjudging the time it takes to stop when going 70 mph. However, mature drivers have already made and learned from those mistakes.
- Stronger focus. It’s a sad fact that younger drivers are more susceptible to distractions than older drivers. Whether we’re talking about texting while driving, eating while driving, or any other form of dangerous behavior, older drivers are far less likely to become distracted by nonsense than younger drivers.
- More stable judgment. The older we get, the more grounded our behavior becomes. As teenagers and young adults, we tend to throw caution to the wind without thinking about the consequences. However, as we age and mature, we realize that we must take responsibility for our actions. As a result, older drivers are less likely to take risks, drink and drive, drive too fast, or disobey traffic laws.
Liability and Pursuing a Claim
Although elderly drivers may have certain infirmities working against their driving abilities, an accident can occur at anytime, to anyone, and as a result of numerous factors. Therefore, just because an older driver may have been involved in your accident doesn’t mean that he is automatically at fault.
However, when the elderly driver is truly liable for the accident, you can still get justice. You just need a little more help. An experienced, local attorney, like Steve Lee, can analyze your accident and help you build a strong and compelling case against the other driver. Schedule your FREE consultation at a time that is convenient for you. We look forward to helping you understand and pursue your legitimate injury claim.