As the average age of the American population increases there is growing concern about how older drivers will affect the safety of America’s roadways. In 2009, 33 million drivers were aged 65 and older. While older Americans are living longer and are more independent, the risk of an accident increases with age. Older drivers have a lower per capita risk of being involved in an auto accident, however, by age 70 or older the risk of a car accident increases, with the incidence of elder-related accidents increasing significantly at age 80.

What causes the increases in elder related accidents?

One of the main causes of elder-related problems in driving is the reduced physical, cognitive and visual abilities that come with age. Another cause is the increase in prescription drug use that comes with age that can interfere with normal physical, cognitive and visual abilities. Even with these limitations, elderly drivers are surprisingly still more dangerous to themselves than others. In crashes involving those aged 75 or older, an elderly driver or an elderly passenger were the most likely to be injured in those accidents. Among those aged 75-89, insurance claims for vehicle damage were higher than for drivers 35-69.

What laws affect elderly drivers?

More states are beginning to impose additional requirements for elderly drivers. In Illinois, drivers must renew their licenses every two years beginning at age 81-86, and renewing every year at age 87. Drivers older than 75 must also take a road test with their renewal. Other states have imposed doctor verifications, reaction tests, vision tests, and the cessation of renewal by mail. Results from these new requirements have been mixed but states will continue to experiment with ways to decrease the incidence of such auto accidents.

In addition to imposing more legal requirements to drive on older drivers, vehicle technology is increasingly making it safer for them to drive. Improved airbags have helped reduce the injuries to the occupants in a crash. Brighter and bigger displays assist those with mild vision problems. Self-driving cars may be especially helpful for elderly drivers, enabling them to stay independent even with the physical, cognitive, and visual declines with age. At this point in time there is still a lot of testing being done on the new technology and its effects still have yet to be scientifically proven.

Another solution for all drivers but especially the elderly is to create better road and traffic signs. Increasing the size and color contrast can assist drivers who drive in less than ideal conditions. Some studies have found that having a dedicated left turn lane with a dedicated left signal reduces left turn accidents.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Your case may be different. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you are elderly and have been involved in an accident, contact it is imperative you contact a lawyer immediately. Please contact our law firm for a free consultation at 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800) 275-2529. You will talk with an attorney with at least 20-30 years of experience and we never charge unless we collect for you.