Elderly Driver Accidents: Top Causes and How to Prevent Them

We often label them as Sunday drivers for their slow speeds on our roadways, but there’s a more sinister reason to keep an eye out for older drivers – it seems they have higher rates of fatalities (based on miles driven) than any other age group, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). While statistics show teenage drivers are the worst on the road, a 2014 study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University found the death rate for drivers over 85 years of age is four times higher than for teenagers.

Surprisingly, in all the accidents reported in the Carnegie Mellon study, the older drivers told law officers that they confused the gas for the brake pedal. Nearly all the drivers had clean driving records and had passed written and vision tests to receive their licenses. None of those involved in car accidents reported being drowsy, distracted, drunk or drugged while behind the wheel.

Top 10 Causes of Elderly Driver Accidents

As modern medicine advances and more treatments for disease are discovered, life expectancy will get longer. The number of elderly drivers will grow accordingly. There were more than 46 million licensed elderly drivers (ages 65 years or older) in 2018. This number is expected to increase to 98 million by 2060.

According to the IIHS, 80% of elderly drivers are auto-dependent – and only 2% rely on public transit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The risk of being killed or injured by a motor vehicle actually increases as we age. In 2016, more than 7,400 older people were killed in motor vehicle accidents and an average of 794 older drivers were injured daily. With the anticipated increase in the number of elderly drivers, fatality and injury rates are bound to increase as well. This SlideShare explores ten of the most common causes of the most injurious accidents caused by elderly drivers.

Laws Impacting Elderly Drivers in Illinois and Missouri

There are several factors that contribute to higher rates of senior driver deaths, including population density, weather, and out-of-date transportation infrastructure. Suburban areas especially struggle with older drivers, because many times they lack mass transportation systems and adequate pedestrian infrastructure.

To address the issue of elderly drivers operating motor vehicles safely, approximately 33 states and the District of Columbia have special provisions or laws that address this age groups’ special needs. These provisions or laws are typically broken down into the following categories:

  • Accelerated Renewal Frequency – This means there is generally less time between license renewals, so instead of every eight years, states might make it every four
  • Online or Mailed Renewal Restrictions – For example, Illinois won’t allow seniors ages 75 and older to do online or mail renewals. Instead, these drivers must appear in person at the Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) to renew their licenses
  • Visions, Road & Written Test – Some states have more rigid requirements concerning the frequency of taking a vision, road or written tests prior to the renewal of a license

Illinois Regulations for Older Drivers

In Illinois, regulations for license renewal include:

  • Accelerated Renewal Frequency: Every two years after age 81 and yearly after 87
  • Online or Mailed Renewal: Not available for drivers over the age of 75
  • Vision Testing: Every renewal after 75

Missouri Regulations for Older Drivers

In Missouri, regulations for license renewal include:

  • Accelerated Renewal Frequency: Every three years after age 70
  • Online or Mailed Renewal: Not available for any driver
  • Vision Testing: Every renewal for all drivers

Preventing Elderly Driver Crashes: What Caregivers Can Do

If you have a loved one or family member who is 65 years of age or older, it may be time for you and your family to talk to them about their driving habits. This can be a very touchy subject, but it is as important as any aspect of their wellbeing – and it is crucial to promoting roadway safety for everyone who is on the road.

As a self-appointed or family designated caregiver to an older driver, here are a few questions and topics you can go over with your loved one to decide if there needs to be a change in their driving privileges:

  • Concerning Eyesight – Are you having trouble seeing traffic signs or other vehicles? Are you struggling with headlight glare? Can you recognize faces from across the street?
  • Control of Vehicle – Do you feel you have full control of your car when driving? Do you look over your shoulder when making lane changes? Do you have trouble moving your foot from the gas to the brake pedal? Is it hard for you to turn the steering wheel?
  • Confidence Level – Are you nervous about driving? Does it scare you or overwhelm you? Are you confused by traffic signs? Do you take medicine that makes you drowsy? Do you ever get dizzy or lose consciousness when driving? Do you react slowly to normal traffic flow?
  • Family & Friend Concern – Has anyone expressed concerns about your driving?

Asking these questions may be difficult, but they can help you better understand if it is time to make alternative arrangements for transportation. Elderly drivers are a larger risk to themselves than others – often the victims of single-vehicle crashes. Help protect your loved one and everyone else on the road by encouraging drivers with diminishing abilities to call a rideshare, use public transit, walk, or call a family member for rides.

Have You Been Injured?

If you have been injured by an older driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Several factors go into auto accidents, but victims of drivers who cannot control their vehicles are typically eligible for compensation beyond the offerings of insurance companies. Before you accept an insurance offer, talk to one of our car accident attorneys. We can review your case free of charge to help you determine the most effective way to get the compensation you will need to recover.

In Illinois, call our Illinois office at 618-888-8888 for a complimentary consultation. In Missouri, call our St. Louis office at 314-333-3333 to schedule your free case review.

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