Age-Related Vulnerabilities in the Elderly and Auto Accidents

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Senior citizens, about 33 million of whom in 2009 were over 65 and were licensed to drive, are more likely to take safety precautions when they drive, such as wearing their seat belts and staying within the posted speed limits. However, age-related vulnerabilities put them at risk of more serious injuries and death if they are in an auto accident. The elderly and auto accidents can be a deadly combination. It is important for seniors and their families to understand the age-related vulnerabilities, consider their driving limitations, and know when it is a good idea to stop driving and surrender their licenses.

Statistics About Age-Related Vulnerabilities in Elderly Drivers

The American Automobile Association estimates that Americans are outliving their ability to safely drive by an average of seven to 10 years. Per mile driven, people age 75 and older have increased fatality and crash rates, and those rates increase sharply for people over the age of 80. By 2030, more than 70 million Americans will be age 65 or older, and 85 to 90 percent of them will still be licensed to drive. More than 67 percent of older Americans take at least one medication that could affect their reaction time, vision, or reflexes, but less than 33 percent of them admit that those medications could affect their driving. If an elderly person causes an auto accident that injures you, you can speak with our auto accident attorney to find out your rights and determine if that driver should have been on the road. While more than 58 percent of the deaths in auto accidents caused by the elderly were the elderly drivers themselves, 12 percent of the deaths were their passengers, and 28 percent were the occupants of other cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

Understanding the Types of Age-Related Vulnerabilities in Drivers

There are several types of age-related vulnerabilities that may affect an elderly person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. Some of these vulnerabilities include:

  • Dementia and memory-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s
  • Use of medications that impair reflexes or cause drowsiness
  • Heart conditions that lead to a medical emergency while driving
  • Arthritis or bone diseases that impair the driver’s ability to move and see around his or her car
  • Vision disorders such as macular degeneration, cataracts, low vision, and poor night vision
  • Weaker muscles or poor coordination that impair the driver’s ability to maintain a grip on the steering wheel or depress the brake pedal
elderly and auto accidents

Physician and Family Liability for Auto Accidents Caused by Elderly Drivers

In some cases, the elderly driver already recognizes these vulnerabilities. In other cases, grown children or physicians might suggest to the elderly person that he or she stop driving. A physician may intervene, or a person with power of attorney may be able to report the situation to the department of motor vehicles, which may require the elderly driver to surrender his or her license for medical reasons. If a physician fails to report a medical situation that could put the elderly person, his or her passengers, and other people at risk of injuries or death caused by an auto accident, the law is not always clear. Consider these two situations:

  • An elderly person with dementia who lives with his grown son uses his son’s car to drive to the grocery store. He gets in an accident that causes your injuries. In this case, the son may have some liability since he owns the car.
  • A senior citizen with cataracts and who lives on her own drives her own car to the hair salon and crashes into your car. The physician and her family had suggested she stop driving. In this case, the physician and family may not have any liability.
  • An elderly person who takes a medication that causes drowsiness borrows his daughter’s car without permission and crashes into you. The daughter may or may not have liability.

What to Do If an Elderly Driver Causes an Auto Accident and You Are Injured

Speaking with an auto accident attorney could help you gain a better understanding of your situation. The car accident attorney may ask for medical records and the driving history of the elderly person who caused the accident that injured you or damaged your vehicle. To learn more about your rights in this type of accident, contact our auto accident attorney at (732) 247-3600 to schedule a consultation. We also invite you to stop by our office in New Brunswick to schedule a meeting with our attorney.

Contact Our Office

To schedule a confidential consultation, contact us online or call our offices, in New Brunswick at (732) 247-3600, in Somerville at (908) 448-2560, or in Freehold at (732) 828-2234.

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