Older Drivers Car Accidents | Safe Driving #2

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Car accidents can happen at any time, to anyone, at any age. That’s why safe driving conversations are so important and should be a regular discussion in your household. It’s too easy to become overly confident and too complacent behind the wheel of a car, which can too often result in car accidents.

In Part One of our “Safe Driving” series we discussed teenage drivers. This time we’d like to address older drivers. Most likely, the majority of us have older drivers in our circle of family and friends. We thought it would be prudent to share some tips and resources relating to older drivers. After all, we all want to avoid car accidents and injuries!

According to a study funded by the AAA Foundation, the chances of older drivers having an accident are far greater than those of us in our thirties, forties and fifties. So, at what age does a person become considered an older driver? The study cites the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) who uses 65 as the age when drivers start being considered older drivers. And they point out that as our population continues to live longer, the number of older drivers will increase, as will the number of car accidents.

The 2012 statistics relating to older drivers are sobering. The AAA Foundation’s study state that there were over 5,560 people 65 and older who were killed and 214,000 injured in car accidents in 2012. These numbers make up 17% of all vehicle-related fatalities and 9% of the people who were injured in car accidents in that year. When compared to the statistics from 2011, the older driver fatalities and injuries increased by 16%. And, we can expect that number to grow as the older population increases.

What can we do to help protect our older drivers? Ask yourself a few simple questions.

The vehicle:

  • Is the vehicle old?
  • Is the vehicle, regardless of age, in good working order?
  • Does the vehicle “fit” the driver?
    • Is it too large for the driver to handle?
    • Does the driver have good visibility?

The older driver:

  • Is the driver alert?
  • Is the driver easily confused?
  • Are the reaction times and reflexes of the driver good or bad?
  • Does the driver have any medical issues that could affect their driving?
  • Is the driver’s eyesight good enough to drive at night or in inclement weather? Can the driver read road signs?
  • Does the driver have good hearing? Can he or she hear emergency sirens or horns?

The toughest part about dealing with an older driver is knowing when you should start restricting or even revoking their driving privileges. It’s a difficult decision and unfortunately, most of us might wait to have the conversation until we notice the driving has become dangerous. That’s too late. Do your part and help prevent car accidents by having those important conversations earlier rather than later. We need to remember that as people age their reflexes and cognitive skills lessen and could result in car accidents.  Make a point to have that conversation at the first sign that the older driver is becoming slower in their responses.

Use the tools that are readily available. The NHTSA website and the AAA Foundation’s study both offer helpful information. They will help you to recognize and also how to discuss the needed changes in driving habits for your older driver. Help prevent car accidents while keeping your loved ones safe.

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