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What Risks Do Elderly Drivers Face Behind the Wheel?

Driving is a task most of us do daily. That means it’s easy to take safely getting from point A to point B for granted. But driving is an extremely complex and demanding task, both mentally and physically. It requires uninterrupted focus and concentration, a clear view of the road ahead, fast reflexes, and good judgment.

Many things can impair or interfere with those requirements, including alcohol, prescription drugs, certain over-the-counter medications, and sleep deprivation. But there’s another variable that can make driving much more dangerous that people often don’t think about until it’s too late: age.

Advanced Age Makes Safe Driving More Difficult

Once they get past their teen years, drivers tend to be safer and less likely to be involved in crashes with every passing year—up to a point. Once drivers reach their mid-60s and older, their driving abilities tend to decline due to age-related issues.

For example, they may experience the following physical and cognitive symptoms, which can all impact their ability to safely drive their vehicles:

  • Reduced visual acuity up close and far away, macular degeneration, and cataracts
  • Slower reflexes
  • Difficulty remembering previously familiar routes
  • Difficulty finding their way through new areas
  • Newfound fear and anxiety behind the wheel
  • Harder time maintaining a steady speed or holding a lane

It’s important to stay up to date on your elderly loved one’s health. If they have medical conditions or take medication that can interfere with their driving abilities, consider arranging alternate transportation for them.

Age-Related Changes Create More Opportunities for Crashes

When it comes to safe driving, small, detrimental changes quickly add up. And when many small changes are occurring at once—each of which can worsen year to year—it’s easy to see why senior drivers can be a danger to themselves and others.

Some of the biggest dangers senior drivers face include:

  • Not seeing other vehicles, signs, and traffic signals—Being a safe driver is all about situational awareness. You need to be able to see what’s going on around you, including the location and movement of other vehicles, the presence of stop and yield signs, and when lights change color. Seniors with vision problems may have extreme difficulty with these basic requirements.
  • Being slow to react to the movements of other vehicles—Getting cut off in traffic or having the driver in front of you slam on their brakes unnecessarily can be scary and frustrating. But for senior drivers, those frequent roadway occurrences can result in crashes. That’s because their reflexes may be slower, making them unable to react in time.
  • Having difficulty judging distances between objects and other vehicles—Having good spatial awareness is an important skill for drivers. All drivers should be knowledgeable about the dimensions of their own vehicles, especially when parking, stopping in traffic, and turning. But many seniors lose this ability, resulting in unexplained scrapes and dents on their vehicle.
  • Taking medications that cause drowsiness—As people age, their likelihood of being on one or more prescription medications increases. Seniors often take multiple medications, and the more medications they take, the more likely they are to take at least one that causes drowsiness. Alertness behind the wheel is vital, and anything that impairs it can cause a crash.
  • Being unable to steer properly or see over the dashboard—The aging process and various injuries can cause seniors to lose strength in their cores and other muscles. That can make it difficult for them to sit fully upright, meaning they don’t get a full view of the road ahead. Muscle weakness can also make it difficult to steer, accelerate, and brake when needed.
  • Getting lost on both familiar and unfamiliar routes—Some degree of memory loss is common in seniors, especially once they reach their 80s and 90s. That means that their knowledge of previously familiar routes, such as to the grocery store, church, or a relative’s house, can become fuzzy or lost. When seniors get lost, they’re more likely to engage in dangerous driving behaviors.

If your elderly loved one has already been involved in an accident, even if it was a parking lot fender bender, it’s important to discuss their risks with them. Although many senior drivers are reluctant to give up driving, others may be fearful behind the wheel and glad to have assistance and support.

We Help Crash Victims of All Ages Throughout Oklahoma

At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, our Oklahoma auto accident attorneys know the risks that seniors face behind the wheel. They’re more likely to be involved in crashes because they’re simply less capable of driving safely than younger drivers. But at the same time, senior drivers are also more at risk because they’re less able to avoid dangerous, negligent, and reckless drivers, and are more likely to be seriously injured or killed in a crash than other age groups.

If your loved one was hurt in a crash caused by a negligent driver, whether it was someone who shouldn’t be behind the wheel or someone who didn’t take their responsibility seriously, we want to help. We’ll do everything we can to get your family maximum compensation. Contact us today for a free consultation.