Have you ever wondered how safe of a driver the person you are travelling next to is? Do you think about whether he was drinking before he got behind the wheel, or if he’ll become distracted by a text in the next minute and crash his vehicle into yours? What about if the driver is a senior? Do you feel confident that he is free of medical conditions that could cause him to operate his vehicle unsafely?
According to a report, in 2012, there were over 35 million drivers in the United States that were age 65 or older, and many are perfectly capable of driving without incident. Unfortunately, many elderly drivers run into trouble when driving. In fact, in 2012, more than 5,560 older drivers were killed and more than 214,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. This pans out to be 15 older adults killed and 586 injured every day.
Medical Conditions That Can Affect the Way Seniors Drive
Many elderly drivers face a variety of ailments that can cause both physical and cognitive problems that can affect the way they operate vehicles. Although some of the conditions can plague drivers at any age, some bother senior drivers more than others. The following is a brief overview:
- Arthritis: This painful condition attacks the joints and can make everyday activities—such as driving—extremely difficult. Swollen and stiff joints, such as the knuckles, elbows, shoulders, neck, and wrists, can limit movement, which can have a negative impact on the way a person drives. This stiffness and pain can stop a driver from properly gripping the steering wheel, turning his head, pressing on the brake and acceleration pedals, and getting in and out of the car.
- Hearing and vision changes: Vision and sight are two of the most important senses that a person uses while driving. As people age, changes in vision and hearing are practically inevitable. Not having these senses working at their full capabilities can cause a person to have difficulty hearing or seeing what is happening—increasing the chance of an accident.
- Changes in reaction time: Driving requires motorists to expect the unexpected. Whether it’s a car running through a red light or a person stepping out into traffic, unexpected and potentially dangerous things can happen while you are driving. Being able to react appropriately and in a timely manner is crucial to safe driving. As people age, they tend to process information and react slower than they did when they were younger. Additionally, their attention span can become shorter and it may become more difficult to perform more than one action at a time.
- Medications: Certain medications can affect a senior’s ability to drive safely. Even simple cold and over-the-counter medications can cause drowsiness, nausea, and dizziness. Prescription medications that are used to treat stress, anxiety, depression, and pain can also create side effects that can make it difficult to drive properly.
- Stroke: Having a stroke can create lifelong problems for seniors. Not only can it prevent you from thinking or speaking clearly, but it can also take a toll on you physically, by creating weakness and paralysis in one side of the body. Not having control can cause a driver to drift across lanes of traffic.
- Dementia: Although those who have severe dementia shouldn’t drive, others who have slight cases of this illness may still be able to operate their vehicles safely. However, they can become easily confused while driving, which can lead to stress and erratic thinking.
When You Become the Victim of an Accident
You likely know that the elderly driver who injured you in a car accident didn’t mean to do it. After all, accidents happen. Unfortunately, even though the collision was a mistake, you’re still responsible for the debt created by medical bills, vehicle repairs, and time lost from work.