Have You Been Injured in an Accident?
The population in Illinois is aging. Soon, there will be the largest number of elderly Americans in the history of the country. With an aging population comes an aging driving population and with that, certain risks.
Older drivers begin to experience a decrease in some of their mental and physical abilities. This may affect their ability to drive. In addition, older drivers are more likely to be injured or killed in an accident when compared to younger drivers. This is because aging makes older drivers more susceptible to injury.
In 2017, there were 44 million licensed drivers age 65 and older in the United States, according to the CDC. Of these drivers, there were approximately 7,700 fatalities and 257,000 injuries from automobile collisions.
Reasons Elderly People’s Ability to Drive Diminishes
Older drivers may experience:
- Vision problems. This includes cataracts, glaucoma, complications from diabetes, or age-related macular degeneration.
- Decreases in hearing abilities. Age-related hearing loss has no known cause, but is simply a fact of getting older.
- Slower reaction time. As we age, our ability to react slows as a result of vision and hearing loss and cognitive decline.
- Mobility issues. Limited mobility can be caused by arthritis, muscle weakness, or complications from illness or aging.
- Confusion. As we get older, our ability to process new information is affected. This can make it easier for elderly drivers to get lost or not able to handle a sudden situation.
- Anxiety. Some older people develop anxiety centered around their decreased ability to drive safely (or for other reasons related to aging). Because of this, their driving and functioning can actually be made worse by their anxiety.
- Other medical problems. A lot of different things can cause an older person to lose their ability to drive safely, like injury or illness.
All of the above may affect their ability to drive. In addition, older drivers tend to be on prescription medications, some of which can comprise driving skills.
What Can Older Adults Do to Avoid Accidents?
Despite some of the common negative beliefs about elderly drivers, statistics show that there are some areas where these drivers exercise safe driving more than the general population. Continuing to focus on safety and greater efforts to limit high-risk behaviors while driving will help to reduce auto accidents involving seniors.
The Elderly Have Safer Driving Habits
- Currently, seat belt use among elderly drivers is approximately 77 percent. This is substantially higher than the 63 percent seat belt use the Centers for Disease Control reports among adult drivers ages 18 to 64.
- Additionally, older drives are less likely to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. Therefore, they are less likely to cause this type of collision than their younger counterparts. Only 5 percent of elderly drivers involved in fatal collisions were legally under the influence. Meanwhile, 25 percent of younger drivers killed in accidents were legally under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Elderly drivers also tend to drive only in optimal conditions. Because of this, they are less likely to be in crashes during a rain or snow storm, or late at night. Experts also recommend that elderly only drive when necessary.
Older drivers should ask their pharmacists to make sure no medications will limit their ability to drive safely. Further, they should also have their eyes checked regularly for changes in vision as well as degenerative diseases.
It is also a good idea for elderly drivers to exercise and eat well if possible, to prevent or limit injuries in the event of a crash. Studies have shown that older drivers who are healthier and in better shape at the time of an accident are less likely to suffer serious injuries than those in poor health. In other words, drivers who take care of themselves physically will be less likely to die in a crash.
How to Speak with Your Elderly Relative About Driving
When it comes time for your elderly family member to stop driving–whether they’re your parent, grandparent, or other relative–you may find it difficult to speak to them about the prospect of giving up the keys. Maybe you’ve seen signs while you’re riding with them that they shouldn’t be behind the wheel anymore. Or perhaps a recent medical diagnosis, like worsening vision or hearing, means it just isn’t safe for them to continue driving.
Whatever the reason, talking to an elderly person about giving up a freedom like driving can be difficult. Here are some tips on how to speak with your elderly relative about their driving or about giving up driving.
- Start the conversation early before you see any signs that their ability to drive is declining. Breach the subject long before the day arrives so it doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Ask them to keep you in the loop on how things are going and how they feel while driving. You can also ask them directly how they’d like you to approach the situation if and when it was to come up in the future.
- Observe your parent’s driving abilities and keep tabs on whether or not something changes. Watch how they turn, change lanes, and follow speed limits. If you have any concerns, bring them up.
- Research resources that can help guide you through the conversation with your parent or relative. You can also speak to their primary care provider for advice.
- Choose who is going to bring up the idea to your loved one. In some cases, there is only one person available. But in other situations, there may be multiple children or family members available. In these cases, maybe one person is a better choice than another for some particular reason.
- Approach the subject respectfully. It’s likely a hard conversation for your parent or relative to hear. Thinking about giving up driving not only means a limiting one’s freedom to go about on their own, but it also brings up thoughts about mortality and finality.
- Speak to them one on one. It may embarrass them to have their driving ability brought up in front of a lot of people, even if they’re other relatives.
- Avoid confrontation and make sure that you listen to your parent’s feelings on the subject. Making sure that they feel like their perspective is being heard can help the conversation go much more smoothly.
- Know when to stop the conversation and save it for a later date. This conversation can be incredibly hard for your parent to hear. So, know when it’s a good time to end the conversation and pick it back up another time.
- Speak to them about their alternatives to driving. One of the biggest points of the conversation will be, “how will I get to A or B?” Have answers to these questions, like when you will be available to provide rides, an arrangement for using rideshares, or perhaps a plan with a transportation company.
- Make sure they know you are on their side. This is perhaps the most important point. Making sure that the conversation comes from a place of concern and love will go a long way compared to a conversation that is framed as “you are simply too old to drive.”
What If an Elderly Driver Caused My Car Accident?
If an elderly driver causes an accident that results in injuries to you, Illinois law protects you. An accident victim can make a claim for damages against the at-fault driver and the driver’s insurance company. These claims can encompass medical bills, lost wages, and any other expenses as a result of the accident.
Insurance companies are challenging to work with. Further, some may even deny a valid claim in an effort to escape liability.
Often this is because insurance companies have an unfair advantage when dealing with an individual without a lawyer. That accident victim may be desperate to pay bills and is often unaware of the true value of his or her injury.
Once a claim is settled, generally there is no opportunity to receive additional payment in the future. Unfortunately, you can only settle your case once. That’s why it is crucial you have an elderly accident attorney in Chicago on your side. He or she will represent your interests in the process of a financial recovery.
Elderly Driving Statistics
There is one simple statistic that emphasizes the importance of giving thought to how elderly people drive and how we can ensure that they are doing so safely. That statistic is that between 2008 and 2017, the population of people 65 and older increased by 31% in the United States. This is a staggering figure when it comes to population change in just 10 years.
Furthermore, this number is only forecasted to go higher. It is estimated that the number of Americans ages 65 and older will more than double over the next 40 years, bringing the population of older adults to 80 million in 2040. Further, adults ages 85 and older–the group most likely to not be able to operate a car safely–will double by 2036 and then triple by 2049. This means there will be a lot more older drivers in the US, something that is being given careful consideration by both governments and research institutes.
It is also worth noting that elderly people are relatively safe drivers and are involved in fewer accidents than other age groups in the US, such as teen drivers. A recent study compared the size of age groups relative to the overall driving population with their involvement in car accidents. That study found that older drivers, who represent 15% of all drivers on the road, cause only 7% of all two-car accidents. However, younger drivers, who represent 13% of all drivers on the road, cause 43% of all two-car accidents. As you can see, even though both groups represent similar portions of the US populations, younger drivers cause roughly 6 times more accidents.
The point of these statistics is to show that elderly drivers are not some massive hazard on our roadways that needs to be addressed, but rather that older drivers have specific issues and their population is increasing dramatically as the baby boomers reach their golden years. As a society, we can all come together to address potential problems by being more cautious drivers ourselves, speaking to our elderly loved ones about their driving habits, and knowing when and how to ask them to give up their keys altogether.
Legal Help is Available After an Auto Accident
The lawyers at Abels & Annes, P.C. have experience on their side. We regularly help numerous accident victims recover against those that harmed them. This includes those who have injuries due to the negligence of elderly drivers. We know the law and we know how to get results.
We believe that every victim deserves a free case consultation to learn about what legal options are available. Call a Chicago elderly car accident lawyer at (312) 924-7575. If you have been hurt, do not let yourself continue to be a victim of your accident. Call us today and let us help you towards a financial recovery.
If you suffer an injury in an accident with an elderly driver, call us today at (855) LAW-CHICAGO or Contact Us online for a free consultation.