At the beginning of the decade, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted a review that indicated an explosion of the senior motorist population in the country in the coming years. This, the IIHS believed, would increase the risk of accidents involving these drivers and other motorists. Nine years later, the IIHS has revisited the issue, and conducted a study into senior motorist safety. The results have been a pleasant surprise.
There are definitely more senior citizens driving today than in the past, but they are not contributing to more accidents, nor are they being fatally injured in accidents at a greater rate. If anything, accident and fatality rates for senior citizens are actually showing a downward trend. Fatal accident rates involving elderly drivers have dropped by as much as 37% over the past decade. In the case of drivers above the age of 80 – those you would think would have the most diminished driving abilities – fatal accident rates have dropped by as much as 47%.
Obviously, this is good news, because advocates for restrictions of senior drivers have warned about a doomsday scenario, where feeble, senior motorists mow down everything in sight. It’s good to see solid evidence showing that not only are elderly drivers more independent, active and mobile than they used to be, but that they are also some of the safest drivers around.
But when it comes to an elderly driver in your own family, we’ve all been there. It’s difficult not to be concerned when a 70-year-old family member sets off in the car. You don’t want to be hyper cautious, and demand that he/she hand over the keys. On the other hand, you also want to keep your eyes open for any signs of deteriorating driving skills.
As Indiana accident lawyers, we would encourage families of elderly motorists to look out for the following warning signs:
• Signs of dementia • Vision problems • Increasing hearing loss • Aggressiveness • Growing impulsiveness • Stubbornness • Markedly slowing reflexes
When a loved one returns from a drive, check the car for minor dents and scratches that could indicate diminishing driving skills. Also, note the time he/she takes for an errand or a drive. If he/she is taking a long time to get back home, it could be a sign of impending trouble.