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The risks of sharing the road with older drivers

When driving in Pennsylvania, it is common to see seniors behind the wheel. According to the CDC, in 2016, there were 42 million licensed drivers over the age of 65 in America. Older adults often struggle to relinquish their driving privileges because it helps them to preserve their independence. However, as people age, they face a higher likelihood of dying in the event of a motor vehicle accident. In fact, in 2016, 7,400 adults over 65 were killed in motor vehicle accidents.

The likelihood of becoming involved in fatal crashes also increased sharply between the ages of 70 to 74 and was highest among individuals over the age of 84. Men faced higher mortality rates than women. One reason provided for higher fatality rates among the elderly is that as bodies age, they have a more difficult time withstanding and recovering from injuries.

Age is often also a contributing factor in why the accidents occurred. For others, it may cause them to react too slowly to avoid an accident caused by another driver. As people age, their reaction times may slow. Seniors also tend to experience a decline in cognitive function and vision quality. These can present risks for not just the elderly but other drivers on the road.

The CDC notes that there are simple steps seniors can take to stay safe on the roads:

  •          Avoid impaired driving.
  •          Always wear a seatbelt.
  •          Plan routes before getting in the car.
  •          Drive when weather conditions are best.
  •          Consider carpooling with another driver.
  •          Complete a vision test at least once per year.

According to a 2019 study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the ability to drive themselves around significantly impacts quality of life for seniors. The study concluded that the frailer a driver was, the higher the likelihood of a crash. However, these drivers were also less likely to travel far distances.

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