Are senior drivers more dangerous?

Elderly drivers may have physical or mental conditions that increase their chances of getting into an accident, putting themselves and others at risk.

Older drivers typically have many more years of experience than their younger counterparts, and might therefore be more able to know how to react in a potentially hazardous situation. For many drivers in Encinitas and elsewhere, however, the senior years may signal the decline of abilities that contribute to safe driving. According to Consumer Reports, drivers over the age of 80 are six times more likely to be involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes than younger drivers, for numerous reasons.

Age-related medical conditions

Each day across the country, say officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 15 elderly drivers are killed in accidents and 500 more are injured. The age-related factors that may contribute to this increasing likelihood of accidents include the following:

• Decreased ability to see hazards in the road or detect safety issues, such as hearing a car honk its horn or the siren of an approaching emergency vehicle

• Cognitive issues, such as early dementia or Alzheimer's, causing confusion or a delayed reaction

• Physical injuries or illnesses making it more difficult to operate a motor vehicle

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, some states have enacted regulations in regards to licensing senior citizens, which may address potential physical or mental conditions that can reduce driver safety. For example, an older driver may need to undergo a physical examination before being allowed to renew a driver's license, or the time between renewals may be shortened. In California, drivers age 70 and older must provide sufficient proof of vision at every renewal. Additionally, they are only allowed to renew in person, not by mail or online, after the age of 70.

Grandmother strikes several children at school

A recent incident in Santa Barbara County illustrates how it can be possible for an elderly driver to cause a serious accident unexpectedly. According to the Lompoc Record, a 90-year-old woman picking up a grandchild at school mistook the gas pedal for the brake, and drove through a line of students on the sidewalk next to the wall of the school. One boy became trapped under the car and had to be airlifted to the hospital, while five others were injured. Fortunately, all of the injuries were minor. Authorities did not expect to file criminal charges, although it was uncertain if the woman would face other driving consequences.

You are entitled to seek compensation for your injuries if you are in an accident caused by another driver, regardless of age. An experienced California personal injury attorney may be able to advise you of your rights.