Car Accidents Involving Elderly Drivers

With the Baby Boomer generation hitting retirement age, statistically the number of drivers over age 65 is going to explode within with the next several years. AAA has estimated that within 15 years, 1 in 5 drivers will be over age 65.

What that means for the risk of car crashes on the nation’s streets and highways is complicated. On the one hand, senior drivers may suffer from age-related health conditions that can impair their driving. On the other hand, data shows that senior drivers tend to take fewer risks than their younger counterparts.

elderly woman driverAs we get older, it can be challenging to admit that we don’t do some things as well as we did when we were younger.

Especially as we approach our senior years, we may find that we lose range of motion due to arthritis or osteoporosis, that our vision is less crisp than it once was and we may find it harder to see at night, that our hearing is starting to fade, or that we don’t think quite as clearly as we once did.

We may develop chronic medical conditions that require prescription drugs.

Any one of these may impair our ability to continue to drive as we age. Driving is an important part of adult life, especially in a nation that is built around people having cars. Driving grants independence — the ability to go to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment or out to dinner or a movie without having to rely on someone else. Maintaining independence is important for many seniors, but that also may mean greater risk for getting injured in a car crash.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of fatalities per mile traveled rises starting at age 75, and increases dramatically once a driver reaches 80. However, there is some evidence that the accident and fatality rate for older drivers may be decreasing compared to past rates.

Elderly drivers as a group are more likely to avoid certain risky driving behaviors such as driving under the influence of alcohol or driving in bad weather or at night. They also tend to have greater rates of seat belt use than younger drivers, and generally drive fewer miles per year than younger drivers.

Driving Laws Affecting Seniors

Illinois has enacted laws to ensure that seniors who get behind the wheel continue to be fit to do so. There is no age in Illinois at which a person is no longer permitted to drive; however, once a driver reaches age 81, he or she must renew his or her driver’s license once every 2 years. At age 87, renewal is required annually. Any driver over age 75 must renew a driver’s license in person rather than online or through the mail.

Any driver in Illinois is supposed to disclose physical or mental conditions that may affect his or her ability to drive. Drivers are asked questions about their health when they apply for a license, and some conditions may require that a doctor sign a medical report form before the driver can get an Illinois license.

All drivers have to take a written driver’s license test once every 8 years, unless they have a record that’s free of traffic violations or car accidents. Once a driver reaches age 75, he or she must take a driving test every time his or her license is renewed. That test includes the written test, a vision exam, and a driving test.

Seniors and Car Accident Injuries

In addition to an increasing risk for fatalities from car crashes, seniors who are in auto collisions tend to experience more serious injuries. A report for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that looked at 12 years of crash data found that incidences of serious head and chest injuries increased with the age of the person, which can account for why seniors have a greater risk of fatality. Some common results of head or chest injuries that can be serious or fatal for seniors include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Internal bleeding
  • Skull or facial fractures
  • Disfiguring facial lacerations
  • Heart or lung damage
  • Rib or sternum fractures

Car Accidents and Personal Injury Claims

It’s tragic whenever someone is injured or killed in a car accident that could have been prevented. Whether the accident was caused by a senior who should no longer have been driving, or whether a senior suffered serious injuries in an accident caused by someone else, an accident caused by negligence or recklessness may give rise to a personal injury claim.

Through a personal injury claim, you may be able to receive compensation for any medical expenses you incurred because of the car accident. You also may be able to recover income that you lost because of the crash, and compensation for your pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, and loss of normal life such as no longer being able to engage in hobbies you once enjoyed because of your injuries or disability.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident and want to consider making a claim, an experienced Chicago car crash lawyer can help you figure out your options and make informed decisions about pursuing compensation for your injuries and other damages. Your lawyer can guide you through the process from investigation to settlement, and work to see that your financial future is secured in the wake of your car accident. Contact Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900 for a free consultation today.