As America’s population ages, seniors have begun to account for a larger percentage of the drivers on the roads. By the year 2020 America will have an estimated 37 million seniors, more than 90% of whom will be licensed to drive. However, the unavoidable fact is that driving relies heavily on skills and senses that tend to deteriorate with age, most notably vision and reaction time. Studies have indicated that a sixty-year-old driver requires as much as 10 times the amount of light to see as clearly as a nineteen-year-old does.
While it is true that seniors suffer from impaired vision and response time, the vast majority of elderly drivers are safe and responsible. As a group they tend to compensate for their limitations by driving less, not driving at night, and not driving in inclement weather. In fact, seniors have the lowest crash involvement rate per licensed driver, and kill the fewest motorists and pedestrians of any age group. The problem is that even though seniors are among the least likely people to get in a car accident, they are among the most likely people to die in a car accident. Seniors driving remains a salient issue despite their good performance because the results of a crash are so likely to be devastating. This article will address one issue plaguing primarily senior drivers, and offer several possible solutions to help keep seniors on the road.
Seniors have the lowest rate of crashes involving alcohol impairment. Clearly, a large percentage of seniors recognize the serious dangers and risks inherent in driving impaired. Yet only 25% are aware of the dangers of mixing driving and medication, despite the fact that 78% are on a regular medication regimen of some kind. Not all common medications represent a serious threat to driving ability, but for seniors with multiple medical conditions who may be taking several types of medication, the risks become severe.
Decreased vision is a very serious problem for driving seniors, but the DMV tests for vision only when it issues a new license, in some cases as infrequently as once a decade. Worsening vision is often a very gradual phenomenon that may be difficult for a senior to notice before it reaches dangerous levels. Frequently medical check-ups can reassure seniors about their driving abilities and alert them as soon as anything starts to deteriorate.
Even once driving ability has decreased, there are solutions for seniors looking to retain or even recapture their driving skills. A new program called DriveSharp has been shown to improve driving skills through the use of inert-active computer simulations. DriveSharp has been shown to increase useful field of view by more then 200%, increase confidence in driving at night, and overall reduce crashes by almost 50%.
Seniors are actually among the safest drivers in the country, but their driving habits are still of particular concern because crashes involving seniors are so much more likely to be fatal. By recognizing and addressing the unique issues that confront elderly drivers and helping them maintain their skills for as long as possible, we can continue to improve the safety of America’s roadways by keeping more seniors on them.
About the Author: Chris Guedri is an experienced trial attorney who has been helping the Richmond law form of Allen, Allen, Allen and Allen seek justice for its clients for more than 20 years. Throughout his practice, Chris has focused on bringing quality representation to trucking, traumatic brain injury, and pedestrian cases. His peers have included him in the publication The Best Lawyers in America for more than 15 straight years. He has also been inducted into the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and honored by Virginia Business Magazine.