Elderly Face Higher Risk of Injury in Crashes

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for AutoAccident3.jpgThere are many risk factors while driving these days for all of us on the roads. Some families struggle with something that is difficult to talk about and that is, when should a family keep a relative that is older from driving? Americans are living longer than ever before and can have active and productive lives well into their later years. This means that older Americans are also driving longer and driving offers them a sense of independence that is important to them. Some of us have been through the difficult experience of removing keys from an older loved one who we believe is no longer a safe driver. But this can be very difficult, even for the closest of families when the elder person feels that they are competent to drive, but other family members disagree. Regardless of how difficult this is, we have to consider that if our family member drives and injures someone or worse, their lives and future can be forever changed if there is a law suit filed against them and they are held responsible for the accident.


Here is one big reason to take this question very seriously: the severity of injury in older people is known to be greater than younger people. Of course, an older person as a passenger would also be more likely to become seriously injured even in a low impact crash than their younger counterparts. But when an older person is in even a low severity auto crash, that person is far more likely to not only be seriously injured, but also to lose their lives in what would otherwise be considered to be a less severe crash. These outcomes have been researched thoroughly by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and provide solid grounds for thinking very seriously about whether your older or elderly relatives should continue to drive, even as many drivers are noticing that driving is becoming more and more challenging these days. The reason that those who are older are more likely to be seriously injured has to with the frailty of our bodies as we age. A recent study indicated that drivers who were age 75 or beyond had a greater incidence of injuries to in various types of crashes and to all parts of their bodies, but especially the head, chest and legs. The survival rate for older Americans in motor vehicle crashes is worse than their younger counterparts, as drivers or passengers. In the last decade, the number of people over the age of 65 increased by about 20 percent and just that time frame, drivers in that age group were involved in a 15 percent increase in accidents that resulted in driver fatality. As the population continues to age and as the retirement age has crept up from the early 60’s to the late 60’s, this issue will continue to be a serious one.


As is the case with many types of accidents, traffic intersections continue to be more challenging for older drivers. This problem is shared with drivers under the age of 30, a group that is consistently at-risk for such things as distracted driving and driving too fast. But the older driver has a different issue in an intersection than a younger driver. This is thought to be because at an intersection there are many things that need to be considered and assessed and the risk factors for all drivers increases. Intersections also pose complex decisions at times in terms of yielding and making sure that the light has changed or knowing which vehicle has the next right of way in a stop sign situation. The research indicates that older drivers have several specific risk factors at intersections. These include actually noticing the stop sign or stop light, moving at a low rate of speed through the intersection, failing to make a thorough visual search at the intersection to ensure that other vehicles are stopped or yielding and misjudging distances when traveling through the intersections to avoid collision with other vehicles.


In another post we will examine other issues that are presented with older drivers and offer some solutions for how to deal with this very sensitive issue within your own family. And as always, if you or a loved one has sustained injury in a car accident or other type of roadway crash that may have been caused by another driver, please feel free to contact me personally at my law firm to discuss your legal rights and remedies.