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Older Driver Safety Awareness Week Matters in Virginia

Elderly Woman in Driver's Seat of White Car

The NHTSA is committed to encouraging safe driving habits of older drivers on our nation's roads. As our country's senior population expands, it's more crucial than ever to learn about the factors that can affect Older Driver Safety. The first whole week of December 5-9, 2022, is designated as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week to ensure the safe mobility of our elderly on the road.

More than 17% of the total U.S. population is of the age of 65 and up. The total anticipated fatalities for the 65-and-older age group climbed by 14% in 2021, reversing the downward trend in deaths reported in 2020. More than 7,000 older drivers lose their lives in fatal crashes each year, and almost two lakh visit emergency departments for crash injury treatment.

Mature or older drivers accounted for about ten percent of the injured people and 18% of fatalities in 2020 Virginia traffic crashes. Few of the top localities that have witnessed the most crashes so far in 2022 with mature (65+) drivers involved in Virginia include Roanoke City (298), Lynchburg City (214), and Richmond (168), among others. The percentage of the population over 65 in the areas cited above is above the national average of older people.

The goal of this article by Virginia's trusted personal injury attorneys at Kalfus & Nachman is to remind drivers of the importance of driving safely at any age and being attentive to older drivers.

What Effect Does Aging Have on Driving

Driving is a complex task that comes with many responsibilities. Age-related physical and mental changes can impact a person's ability to drive in three functional areas. Drivers must be able to:

  • See traffic and road conditions.
  • Recognize these visuals, process what they mean, and respond appropriately.
  • Perform the physical movement necessary to steer the vehicle.

Age-related changes in eyesight, physical functioning, reasoning and memory capacity, and various illnesses and drugs may impair some older persons' driving skills. Following changes age-related conditions can bring on older people's driving:

  • Vision - Vision changes like near and far vision, depth perception, visual attention, peripheral vision, light and dark sensitivity, and glare affect the ability to see other vehicles, traffic signals, signs, lane markings, road conditions, and pedestrians.

Primary vision conditions that appear more frequently with age include cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.

  • Cognition - The aging process tends to affect decision-making, memory, attention, and reaction time. Slowed memory processing, difficulty in attention-switching, inability to fill in missing information, and dividing attention put older drivers at risk.

Common conditions affecting older drivers' cognition and driving performance include dementia, Parkinson's disease, and medications like antidepressants, anticholinergics, and painkillers.

  • Physical Function - Age-related changes in strength, flexibility, and reaction time can affect older drivers' ability to perform physical movements to control their vehicles.

Common conditions affecting motor function and driving include arthritis, sleep apnea, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, heart disease, leg problems, and cold feet.

Warning Signs of Older People's Driving Issues

Even when older folks are not in the vehicle, their actions, words, or even the way they appear may raise your suspicions or signal a potential problem that could endanger their safety while driving. Such danger signals may include:

  • Disorientation and confusion;
  • Amnesia or forgetfulness combined with other signs;
  • Unusual or excessive agitation;
  • Loss of coordination and joints stiffness;
  • Difficulty in walking, hearing, or eating;
  • Dizziness while shifting positions;
  • Tripping and falling;
  • Shortness of breath and fatigue; and
  • Difficulty following verbal instructions or responding inappropriately to those instructions

This Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, protect your loved ones by learning about the factors that can affect one's ability to drive safely and transportation alternatives. Help address mature adults' needs and concerns, assist them in assessing driving skills and determine the safest options. Caregivers, family members, and loved ones must participate actively and constructively in discussing an older driver's safety and continued mobility.

Safety Tips for Older Drivers in Virginia

Because of their age and experience, older drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents or crashes, but there are steps you can take to help keep yourself safe. Here are a few tips for you:

  • Maintain a regular exercise routine to improve your physical strength and flexibility.
  • Have your eyes regularly checked by an eye doctor, and always wear current prescription glasses.
  • Always plan your trip, drive during the day and avoid rush hours.
  • Choose the safest route with easy parking and intersections with left-turn signals.
  • Avoid driving just after taking your medicines.
  • Avoid driving distractions, including listening to loud music, texting or talking on your phone, and eating.
  • Always wear your seatbelt and sit at least ten inches away from the steering wheel.
  • Choose a vehicle with power steering, brakes, and automatic transmission. Add adaptive equipment for a more convenient drive.
  • If feasible, drive less and consider alternative transportation options.
  • Get regular vehicle checks and repairs from your mechanic.

Hurt in a Car Accident With a Mature Driver in Virginia? Let Us Help!

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident involving an older driver, having a seasoned car accident lawyer on your side can help ensure that you get fair and maximum compensation. At Kalfus & Nachman, our Virginia car accident attorneys have extensive experience representing people injured in a crash with mature drivers. Call us for a free consultation today: 855-880-8163

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