Annual car accident statistics raise serious concerns about elderly drivers on the road. Although they make up just nine percent of the population, they are responsible for 17 percent of total pedestrian fatalities and 14 percent of all car accident fatalities in America. With such a high percentage of fatalities, traffic safety officials are asking the question, how old is too old to drive ?
Serious injuries and fatalities caused by elderly drivers emphasize the many challenges that they face behind the wheel. A recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that elderly drivers between the ages of 75 and 85 account for a large number of traffic deaths. Drivers who are over the age of 85 account for four times the amount of accident fatalities as teenage drivers who have minimal driving experience. Many accidents occur suddenly and unexpectedly in busy areas where pedestrian traffic is high. A Portland Oregon personal injury attorney often sees cases of elderly drivers who crash into store fronts and crowds by accidentally hitting the gas pedal instead of the brakes.
Recently in Los Angeles, an 86 year-old man crashed into an outdoor farmer’s market that was filled with hundreds of pedestrians. The man lost control of the car and stepped on the gas pedal thinking he was applying the brakes. As the car accelerated, it plowed through a series of barricades and into terrified pedestrians, killing 10 people and injuring another 63 people. A crash investigation revealed that the elderly man suffered from reduced mobility due to arthritis and was taking medications for pain control.
Many elderly drivers don’t realize that their poor vision, hearing loss, and impaired cognitive functions put them at higher risk for car accidents. Drivers who are taking medications may not realize that they are affected by drowsiness, delayed reactions, lack of coordination, and impaired judgment while driving. Some elderly drivers who do realize that their driving skills are impaired may still refuse to stop driving for fear of losing their mobility and independence. When elderly drivers are at risk, family members and friends may need to intervene.