Seniors love to drive as much as any other American, and giving it up has been associated with higher rates of depression, nursing home admissions and even mortality. So it makes sense many seniors are reluctant to give it up. Consumer Reports indicates the average American man outlives his ability to drive by six years, while the average American woman by 10 years.
Yet these difficult discussions must be had in light of the fact that elderly drivers are among the most vulnerable on the road. Although they tend to practice safe driving habits, their declining health - from vision to reflexes and hearing to cognition - put them at higher risk of causing an accident, as well as suffering more severe injuries. More than 3.5 million Americans over age 85 have a current driver's license - a figure that is expected to swell as our population ages.
Driving is something to which many of us give a great deal of thought. The fact is, though, it's a complex task and requires one to be both physically and mentally sound. It's estimated 14 percent of Americans over the age of 71 have some type of dementia, while one-third of Americans over 85 have Alzheimer's disease. Numerous other ailments that commonly afflict the elderly, such as failing vision, chronic pain and osteoarthritis - can affect one's ability to drive as well.
Virginia's Special Provisions for Older Drivers
As our Roanoke car accident attorneys can explain, Virginia legislators recognized these issues back in 2014, and passed a law, effective Jan. 1, 2015, that lowered the age of mandatory in-person license renewals from 80 to 75. HB 771 gave judges more latitude in district court cases where mature drivers were found guilty of traffic misdemeanors, traffic infractions or other traffic violations to require completion of a crash prevention or driving improvement course. The law also allows auto insurers to offer reduction in premiums to those who complete the courses.
The Census in 2010 indicated approximately 820,000 Virginians were over the age of 65 and licensed to drive. This represents about 16 percent of all licensed drivers in the state. Virginia is among the majority of states that have special provisions for the growing number of senior drivers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report indicating more than 5,700 older adults were killed and another 236,000 were treated in emergency departments for motor vehicle crash injuries. This amounts to 16 older adults killed and another 648 injured in car accidents every day. With more than 40 million licensed older drivers as of 2015, that's a 50 percent uptick from the number tallied in 1999.
Safer Senior Driving
Research indicates that while older drivers on the whole tend to be safer in many ways than other age groups (they are less likely to speed or use smartphones or be drunk while driving), the number of crashes per mile traveled starts rising for drivers as they reach 70-to-74. Crash rates are highest among drivers over 85.
Some of the ways the CDC recommends older drivers stay safe on the road:
- Drive during daylight and good weather when possible;
- Plan your route before you drive;
- Have your vision checked once annually;
- Ask your physician or pharmacist to review any medications to reduce side effects/ interactions;
- Exercise regularly to increase flexibility and strength.
Our Roanoke auto accident lawyers are available to discuss your recent crash to help you identify your rights and possible claims moving forward.