Senior Drivers and Car Accidents

Older drivers face a myriad of unique and increased dangers behind the wheel. Although they generally engage in safe driving behaviors and largely refrain from risks like speeding and drunk driving, they are more apt to be seriously injured or killed if they are in a crash.

This is increasingly becoming an area of concern everywhere, but it’s especially troublesome here in Florida, where there is the highest reported number of drivers 65 and older killed in traffic accidents.

At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys understand senior crash rates are expected to soar as the huge Baby Boomer population will live and drive longer than any previous generation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports 35 million licensed drivers 65 and older in the U.S., and there will be 40 million by 2020. In Florida, state officials surmise one in four drivers will be over 65 by 2030.

In 2012, the agency reports there were 5,560 people over age 65 killed in traffic accidents nationally, and another 214,000 injured.

A report by TRIP, a national transportation research group, revealed not only does Florida currently have the highest percentage of older drivers (1 in 5), it also has the highest number of crashes involving seniors. In a single year, 271 Florida senior drivers were killed in automobile accidents and more than 500 crash deaths of all ages involved a senior driver. That’s higher than for any other state – even California, which has the most elderly drivers in the country.

Based on a per-mile average, fatality rates begin to increase notably when drivers reach the age of 65, spiking especially high when drivers reach age 80 and beyond. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports this is not because they are more likely to crash, but because these drivers are more prone to injury and medical complications.

Still, this is not to discount the fact that age-related vision, cognitive function and physical changes diminish driver ability in some instances.

Older Drivers: The Good News

There are many ways in which older drivers have the advantage over younger motorists when it comes to safety.

Those include:

  • They wear their seat belts. Research shows nearly 80 percent of older drivers and passengers in crashes were wearing seat belts. That’s compared to about 60 percent of other adult occupants, between the ages of 18 and 64.
  • They drive when it’s safe. Drivers who are older than 65 tend to limit their driving activities when the weather is bad or at night or when there is heavy traffic congestion. This reduces their chances of being in a crash in the first place.
  • They don’t drink and drive. Or at least, they have a much lower rate of impaired driving than their younger counterparts. In cases involving older drivers involved in deadly crashes, only 5 percent had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. Meanwhile, 25 percent of drivers between the ages of 21 and 64 involved in deadly crashes were legally drunk.
  • They don’t talk on their phone. Nearly 100 over-65 respondents of a recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study indicated they disapprove of texting or e-mailing while driving, and very few conceded to engaging in this behavior as compared to their younger counterparts.

In Florida, the regular renewal cycle for driver’s licenses is 8 years. However, when drivers turn 80, they are required to undergo the renewal process every six years. That process includes a vision test.

Older Drivers: Basis for Concern

While there are clearly many ways for older motorists to significantly reduce their crash risk, there are still some notable areas of concern.

The NHTSA released a report on the Taxonomy of Older Driver Behavior and Crash Risk, and found the following functional age-related deficits were associated with higher crash rates:

Sensory/Perceptual (Vision)
  • Acuity
  • Contrast sensitivity
  • Visual fields
  • Depth and motion perception
  • Dark adaptation and glare recovery
Attention/Cognition
  • Speed of processing
  • Selective attention
  • Divided attention
  • Working memory
  • Executive function (judgment/decision-making)
  • Spatial abilities
Physical/Psychomotor
  • Head/trunk/neck range of motion
  • Arm strength/range of motion
  • Leg strength/range of motion

There was also the fact that higher use of prescription medications among this population could increase the risk of impairment, as well as the danger that a medical condition could arise while driving.

Our experienced car accident attorneys in South Florida are prepared to answer any questions you may have about compensation following a crash.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a South Florida car accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (888) ANSARA-8.