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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Why Are Older Drivers at Risk?

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Older drivers generally become more conservative on the road. They will modify their driving habits – avoid busy highways or driving at night – to match their declining capabilities. But are they really safe? They insist that they are.

On the positive side, older drivers tend to be more cautious. They avoid risky behavior like speeding, passing dangerously, or driving with distractions or under the influence. However, statistics show that older drivers are more likely to be involved in multi-vehicle crashes, especially at intersections or when making left-hand turns. Furthermore, when they are involved in an auto accident, the injuries they suffer are more serious than that of middle-aged or of young drivers. Three impairments account for these statistics.

Vision – Adequate visual acuity and field of vision tend to decline with age. Glare, impaired contrast sensitivity, and adjusting to changes in lightness and darkness are other problems commonly experienced by older drivers.

Cognition – Driving requires a high-level cognitive skills, including memory, visual processing, attention, and executive skills.

Motor function – Motor abilities such as muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility are necessary for operating vehicle controls and turning to view traffic. Changes related to age and musculoskeletal diseases (such as arthritis) can decrease an individual’s ability to drive safety and comfortably.

Researchers at Kansas State are taking a close look older drivers and auto accidents. The focus will be on reducing the number and the severity of accidents. The objective is not to take the keys away from seniors, but to find ways to let them driver longer, but safer.

Kansas State associate professor of civil engineering, Sunanda Dissanayake, said “One of the most difficult things for seniors is identifying the speed and distance of oncoming traffic. This is important for making a left turn.” She said another problem is the fonts and sizes of road signs.

As research on this topic continues, no question is more likely to ignite more debate among seniors as "how old is too old to drive," with many pointing out that competence behind the wheel, not age, should be the determining factor.

Meanwhile, here are some questions driving experts recommend asking older motorists to determine if they are still road-worthy:

  • Do other drivers often honk at me?
  • Have I had some accidents?
  • Do I get lost, even on roads I know?
  • Do cars or pedestrians seem to appear out of nowhere?
  • Have passengers in my car told me they are worried about my driving?
  • Am I driving less because I am unsure about my driving skills.

"As the older population gradually increases in the United States, so will the number of older drivers," Dissanayake said. "We need to be taking steps to improve their safety while driving, which also would be beneficial to all road users."

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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  1. Mary Alice says:
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    Did you know? “Adults over the age of 75 are at a higher risk of being involved in automobile accidents.” That’s a scary statistic! Thanks for the article! Great points! I also recommend this supporting article: http://www.standrews1.com/blog/index.php/2010/08/older-adults-and-driving/