Older Adult Drivers Have Increased Driving Risks, Study Says

Medical problems associated with aging often affect driving ability. Seniors should analyze health for limitations that create risk behind the wheel.

Driving drunk, drowsy or distracted often leads to an accident in Illinois, but these behaviors are not the only contributing factors to a collision. According to Caring.com, an organization providing support to caregivers for older adults, the age of drivers in Illinois does appear to matter when it comes to motor vehicle crashes. Of those killed in car wrecks in 2014, 19.3 percent were ages 65 or older, and this represents 13.9 percent of that age group in the state. These statistics make Illinois the twelfth most dangerous state in the country for senior drivers.

Health Problems That May Affect Driving

The National Institute on Aging reports that vision problems commonly associated with aging, such as macular degeneration or glaucoma, may influence the level of driving risk. Navigating streets after dark may be difficult because of glare, but even during the day, those with poor eyesight may not be able to read signs quickly enough to respond. Loss of peripheral vision is another issue that may affect the ability to drive safely.

When a driver has stiff joints, movement may be restricted so that it is difficult to check blind spots or make defensive driving maneuvers such as braking or swerving quickly. Many people also suffer from slower reflexes that prevent them from reacting in a timely way.

Other issues that older drivers may face include diseases such as Alzheimer's, stroke or Parkinson's. Many medications that are commonly prescribed for seniors cause difficulty focusing, drowsiness or dizziness.

Ways to Prevent Age-related Accidents

HelpGuide.org points out that there are ways to counter some of the effects of aging so that a person may continue to drive. For example, longer following distances may prevent a braking emergency, and it may also help to avoid highways and heavy traffic times.

There are also ways to alter a vehicle so that the loss of one function may be compensated by another. However, experts warn that the deterioration of health may occur so slowly, it could be difficult to identify the point where it is no longer safe to get behind the wheel.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that Illinois requires license renewal every four years. Those who are ages 75 and older must be able to show that their vision is adequate for driving at each renewal. However, after the age of 80, licenses must be renewed every two years, and after 86, seniors must renew every year.

Although seniors may face more challenges for safe driving, they are held to the same standard of accountability as every other driver. Anyone who is injured because of a collision with an older driver may be eligible for financial compensation to cover the damages. Many choose to contact an attorney to learn what their legal options are after a car accident.