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Car Accidents Involving Elderly

As the Baby Boomers age, car accidents involving elderly people are on the rise.

A 1997 National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration Study found that, while at the time elderly people made up 9% of the population, they made up 14% of traffic fatalities. This study also showed that, whereas younger drivers tend to run into objects, elderly people were more likely to be run into, such as while making a left turn or accidentally driving through a red light.

There are several reasons why car accidents caused byelderly people occur. As most experts are quick to point out, age, per se, does not cause car accidents. But some of the things that can happen to our bodies as we age may increase our risk of being in an accident.

For instance, hearing and vision frequently decline with age. Reflexes and response time, too, may decline, making it harder for an older person to respond quickly to an emergency in the road or the unanticipated behavior of another driver. Older people are also more likely to be on one or more medications which may cause drowsiness, dizziness, or other problematic side effects. Finally the risk of cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s, which can severely affect judgment, increases with age.

In 1996, the American Academy of Family Physicians released a study regarding car accidents involving elderly people. The study suggested that many car accidents can be prevented by drivers’ license renewal regulations that stipulate drivers must renew their licenses every four years and require universal vision and “knowledge” tests (e.g., written tests to ensure that drivers can recognize road signs and know the rules of the road). It is interesting to note that these tests seemed to help only when applied universally and not at the discretion of the renewal officer.

Car accidents involving elderly people can be devastating, both to the elderly drivers and to those who love them. But a few common sense safety checks can reduce accident numbers and lead to a safer driving experience for people of all ages.

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