Drivers who reach a specific age may begin to suffer physical and mental limitations that affect their driving skills. Drivers who are seventy years of age and above are involved in fatal traffic accidents at higher rates than younger drivers. If you suffered injuries during a car accident, contact Arash Law today to schedule a free consultation with a California personal injury lawyer.
Elderly drivers are more prevalent than ever before. As advances in medicine continue to progress, the average age of the population of the United States rises. Fewer drivers are now forfeiting their driving licenses, and older drivers are continuing to drive well into old age.
However, elderly drivers were in more car accidents in the past. In 2019, approximately 5,000 people seventy years of age and older died in car accidents. In 1997, this number was twelve percent higher. This reduction in fatalities is an important sign for overall traffic safety in the United States.
The majority of elderly drivers limit the geographic range and hours they drive. As drivers age, they spend less time driving, and they drive shorter distances. Many older drivers do not drive in poor weather conditions or after sundown. Some jurisdictions mandate that drivers over a specific age renew their licenses in person so that dangerous drivers have their licenses revoked or restricted.
Approximately thirty-six million people over seventy years of age reside in the United States. These elderly citizens make up eleven percent of the U.S. population. The Federal Highway Administration reports that the United States is home to thirty million drivers who are seventy years of age or older as of 2019.
The majority of licensed drivers in the United States are twenty to sixty-nine years old. Drivers over seventy years of age make up a small portion of the total drivers in the United States, according to the National Household Travel Survey. Although drivers over seventy years of age drive less often than younger drivers, they still retain their licenses. Also, the elderly population in the United States continues to grow. Licensed drivers seventy years of age and older rose seventy percent from 1997 to 2019. The proportion of drivers seventy years of age and older increased from seventy-three percent in 1997 to eighty-three percent in 2019.
By the year 2030, the total number of U.S. residents seventy years of age and older will rise to fifty-three million. These demographic changes will likely influence traffic safety trends in the United States. However, fatalities related to car accidents involving elderly drivers were lower from 1998 to 2019 than they had been in earlier periods.
Approximately 5,000 individuals seventy years of age and older suffered fatalities in car accidents in 2019. The total number represents a twelve percent reduction from deaths recorded in 1997. The total rate of deaths per capita went down by approximately forty-five percent since the year 1975.
Throughout the United States, car accidents involving fatalities of individuals seventy years of age and older went down from 1997 to 2018. This rate was a greater reduction in the accident rates for drivers in the thirty-five to fifty-four age range. In 2015, fatal accidents per driver aged seventy to seventy-nine years old were less than for drivers aged thirty-five to fifty-four for the first time since 2015.
Elderly drivers are covering more miles now than elderly drivers were two decades ago. Distances traveled by drivers seventy years of age and older increased approximately sixty-five percent between two individual periods: 1995 to 1996 and 2016 to 2017. This future was lower for younger drivers during the same time periods.
Those drivers seventy years of age and older also are involved in fewer accidents reported by law enforcement officers. Overall accident rates involving fatalities are lower for elderly drivers than drivers who are in middle age. However, elderly drivers do not drive as many miles as younger drivers. These facts produce unique trends that appear when drivers reach seventy years of age and older.
Similar to other drivers who are younger, elderly drivers add up more miles when they are driving in urban areas. Freeways and crowded highways have fewer car accidents than other types of roads, and drivers who drive a large number of miles do so on highways and freeways. Accidents rates may be higher for elderly drivers due to their driving habits and where they spend the most time driving.
Car accident data is often scrutinized by examining insurance claims. Those drivers who are between the ages of sixty-five and sixty-nine have fewer collision claims and property damage liability claims than any other age group. Once drivers reach the age of seventy, these claims figures rise. Elderly drivers have less expensive insurance claim rates than younger drivers.
Driving Ability and Age
Those drivers who are advanced in years may notice a deterioration in their visual, cognitive, and physical skills. Some elderly drivers may suffer severe impairments and be unable to drive during stressful events or challenging episodes involving heavy traffic. Also, elderly drivers may cause accidents while switching lanes or merging into lanes.
Researchers have surmised that as the visual, cognitive, and physical skills of elderly drivers deteriorate, traffic accidents increase. Some senior citizens take many medications to treat their health conditions. Some medications may cause drowsiness, fatigue, and confusion, which can increase the risk of a car accident.
Specific types of car accidents are also more common among elderly citizens. Intersection accidents, merging crashes, and angle accidents are more common among elderly drivers. Multi-vehicle accidents that occurred at intersections made up approximately forty percent of all accidents involving drivers eighty years of age and older. Only twenty percent of drivers aged sixteen to fifty-nine were involved in multi-vehicle accidents at intersections.
Elderly citizens make an extremely common error that leads to car accidents: failure to yield the right-of-way to other vehicles. Senior citizens fail to yield the right-of-way at higher rates than younger citizens. Also, a nationwide study examining car accidents in the United States found that the most common mistake made by drivers seventy years of age and older was not checking one’s surroundings and deficient surveillance. Senior citizens who are driving are more likely to make false judgments regarding the distance between vehicles and the speed at which another automobile is traveling.
Elderly drivers are typically more cautious drivers, and they are flexible when forced to alter their driving style. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported in a survey of approximately 2,500 drivers sixty-five years of age and older that drivers who suffer from medical problems that interfere with their ability to see, hear, and remember are more likely to restrict their driving time and stop driving in dangerous conditions.
Many senior citizens who drive do not alter their driving habits. Even drivers who suffer from severe cognitive problems might not limit their driving practices.
Injury Risk and Age
The primary variable that influences fatality rates during car accidents among elderly citizens is the fragile physical condition of those drivers. As drivers age, they become more physically fragile, and their risk of dying during a serious car accident increases.
The parties most at risk of suffering injuries due to accidents involving senior citizens are the drivers themselves and the passengers. Approximately seventy-three percent of individuals aged seventy or older who died in car accidents in 2019 were elderly passengers or elderly drivers.
Renewing a Driver’s License
Elderly drivers often face more restrictions regarding the renewal of their licenses to drive. Special driving tests, in-person renewal procedures, and shorter licensing periods are examples of some policies adopted by different states. These provisions and restrictions may apply to drivers once they reach an age specified by the state legislature.
Driver’s License Renewal: Different Procedures Among the States
Among drivers eight-five years of age and older, in-person licensing renewal mandates and vision examinations are two procedures that reduce fatal car accidents among elderly drivers. Drivers who are fifty-five years of age and older do not demonstrate lower car accident fatality rates even when shorter renewal times, knowledge examinations, and road tests are implemented to reduce instances of fatal car accidents.
The Highway Loss Data Institute examined research studies related to road examinations in New Hampshire and Illinois. These studies revealed that data related to insurance claims rates are sometimes contradictory.
Total automobile insurance claim rates for drivers aged seventy-five and older were lower in Illinois compared to other states that did not have road testing requirements. Drivers aged seventy-five and older were also not likely to be insured in Illinois. The road test mandates may have caused some individuals to stop driving.
The same result was not evident in New Hampshire. The state did have a road test mandate that applied to all drivers seventy-five years of age and older.
Australian researchers discovered that drivers aged eighty and older did not exhibit lower car accident rates, fatality rates, or serious bodily injury rates even though road tests and medical tests were mandated. Other states without these restrictions exhibited nearly the same rates of car accidents. Also, some states with greater restrictions featured higher rates of car accidents involving fatalities and serious bodily injuries.
Elderly drivers may face specific restrictions such as not being allowed to drive in the evening or outside a specific area. Also, some states restrict elderly drivers from driving on roads with higher speed limits.
Some states create procedures that require vision screens, road examinations, knowledge assessments, and other evaluations for elderly citizens. These drivers may face referrals from family members, doctors, and law enforcement officers.
A research study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Iowa discovered that drivers seventy years of age and older who received additional testing possessed greater rates of mobility limitation and problems with their vision. Drivers who did not have to receive additional testing reported fewer of these problems. The majority of elderly drivers voluntarily chose to regulate their driving behaviors by not driving in dangerous situations. Restrictions imposed by the state on driver behavior made it more likely that elderly drivers would voluntarily restrict their behavior.
Different results have come about from research studies related to the relationship between automobile accidents and licensing restrictions. In British Columbia, drivers who faced restrictive provisions went longer with being in an accident after renewing a license than unrestricted drivers. Other research studies have produced contradictory conclusions.
Safety Mechanism and Automobiles
Specific automobile features that protect younger drivers and passengers also protect elderly occupants. Fatalities are reduced by side airbags that feature torso and head protection. Fatalities were lessened by approximately forty-five percent for drivers and passengers in the front seat who were seventy years of age and older. This figure is greater than a thirty percent decrease in fatalities for drivers and passengers aged thirteen to forty-nine.
Older model automobiles feature less effective safety belts that do not prevent as many fatalities among elderly drivers and passengers. However, all adults receive greater protection from newer safety belts that feature load limitation devices and pretensioners. Frontal airbags in newer automobiles are also more effective at reducing fatalities and serious bodily injuries.
Newer vehicle technologies can help save the lives of drivers and passengers, no matter their ages. Car accidents are reduced by lane departure warning systems, blind spot detection devices, and frontal crash prevention systems. The Highway Loss Data Institute conducted research studies on frontal accident prevention and lane departure warning systems.
These analyses revealed that claims rates drop among all age groups when considering vehicles with new safety features. However, drivers younger than sixty-five years of age benefit more than drivers over sixty-five years of age.
Rear parking alert systems and rearview cameras help drivers seventy years of age and older reduce car accidents involving vehicles that are backing up.
Accident Reduction and Safety Automation
Accident reduction technologies have many benefits. However, some researchers and safety analysts predict that these safety features require specific responses from drivers that may cause elderly drivers not to pay attention to the road and cause an accident involving serious bodily injury or death.
Age differences are evident in data related to vehicle owners who use accident reduction technologies. The number of drivers reporting hearing multiple alerts and believing these alerts helped prevent a car accident decreased as the ages of the participants rose. These safety systems may confuse and alarm elderly drivers. If so, it is likely that the rate of accidents will increase among older drivers who use accident-reduction technologies.
Drivers who are sixty years of age have not specifically noted challenges when using accident reduction features. The majority of users of vehicles featuring rear parking signals want them on the next automobile they purchase. These include drivers and passengers who are older than sixty years of age.
Drivers and Their Environment
Improving traffic safety improves the lives of children, adults, and senior citizens. Traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings can help reduce accidents involving serious bodily injury and death. Also, drivers suffering from visual impairments such as cataracts and glaucoma can benefit from more visible road signals and traffic signs.
Elderly drivers often become involved in car accidents at intersections. Modifying intersections by installing left-turn traffic signals and left-turn lanes can reduce car accidents by approximately thirteen percent for drivers aged sixty-five years and older.
Roundabouts are used in many states to reduce car accidents at intersections. These devices can reduce the speeds at which vehicles travel. Many communities report a vast reduction in the total number of accidents after roundabouts replaced traditional intersections. Advanced warning systems and directions can direct older drivers to routes that contain roundabouts rather than intersections.
Contact Arash Law Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a California Personal Injury Attorney
Contact Arash Law today to schedule a free consultation. We have decades of experience representing clients who have suffered injuries due to another party’s negligence. We have recovered over $400 million for clients throughout California. Call Arash Law today at (888) 488-1391 to learn more about the legal services we offer. We serve clients in San Francisco, Riverside, Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sherman Oaks, and throughout California. We have collected over $400 million for clients across California.