No one wants to get into an accident in a motor vehicle, but serious collisions happen all the time. In fact, with 266 traffic fatalities in Connecticut in 2015, a fatal crash occurs, on average, at least every other day. There are thousands of accidents that lead to serious injuries and permanent disabilities. There are many factors that can increase the risk of a crash, such as inebriation, exhaustion, distraction and even age.
Often, when people talk about age impacting driving safety, they are looking to teenage drivers. Young drivers have earned a reputation as some of the most dangerous drivers on the road, with good reason. However, it’s important to realize that as people age past a certain point, their ability to drive deteriorates. Elderly adults may have similar or even worse rates of accidents when compared to teenagers.
Reflexes slow as we age
Aging is a general process of degradation of the body. Eyesight, hearing and focus can all diminish over time. Memory and critical thinking can also suffer. Even in those who don’t have any kind of cognitive impairment or degenerative condition (such as Alzheimer’s) resulting in rapid deterioration, reflexes and response time may get worse as well.
Older adults may not move as quickly as younger drivers, which can result in an inability to avoid sudden obstacles or hazards, like a child chasing a ball. Worse, issues with vision or hearing can compound this problem. There are ways for older drivers to offset these disadvantages, such as leaving more space between them and the next vehicle and driving more slowly. Still, the risk for a serious accident persists.
Age can complicate liability issues in an accident
It’s very possible that older drivers will carry only state minimum insurance on their vehicles. Many times, retired adults are on fixed incomes and can’t afford more comprehensive insurance policies. That could leave you with both property damage and medical bills that exceed the maximum coverage by the insurance policy of the driver at fault. In this situation, you may have to consider a civil lawsuit to recoup your losses. Unfortunately, age and medical conditions could impact that process as well.
If an elderly person who has a serious but undiagnosed medical condition, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, causes a collision, the courts may not hold that individual liable for any accident that he or she causes when driving. That can leave injured people (or the survivors of someone who died) in a terrible situation. In some cases, liability could fall to caretakers or even to family members, if they were aware of the individual’s declining mental acuity and choose not to intervene or stop that person from driving.