Accidents Involving Elderly Drivers

How many younger people die or suffer serious injuries in car accidents involving elderly drivers? Those statistics are not so easy to find.


Respecting our elders is a universally shared moral value. With improved healthcare and modern medical technology, more people reach into their 90s than ever before. It’s cause for celebration when a family member or friend gets to age 80, 85, or more.

Most of those who reach these advanced ages would be the first ones to tell you that some unwelcome changes come with getting older. Living longer means you feel your bones and muscles getting a little weaker, your eyesight fades a little more than when you were only 50, and you don’t hear as well as you once did.

The one day older people dread most is the day they lose their independence. And for many of them, that day is the day they stop driving their car. Driving provides us with the freedom to come and go as we please, to shop, visit friends, and go out to eat at our favorite restaurant. Maintaining relationships with friends and family becomes a real challenge for many elders. They don’t want to depend on others every time they want to go out. Unfortunately, more older drivers on the roads of North Carolina means more risk of injuries to others.

In American culture, as a sign of respect, we don’t find fault with the elderly. But automobile accidents turn people’s lives upside down. Families suffer lifelong pain from the loss of a love-one, or from permanent, disabling injuries. We need to be aware of the increased danger posed by drivers whose advanced age reduced their driving aptitude.

According to the CDC’s Injury Prevention and Control office, 7,700 older adults (65+) died in car crashes in 2017. Another 257,000 suffered injuries requiring emergency room treatment. That’s 20 car-crash-related elder deaths every day. Remember, those numbers only count the people over 65-years-old.

Car Accidents Involving Elderly Drivers

How many younger people die or suffer serious injuries in car accidents involving elderly drivers? Those statistics are not so easy to find. What we know for sure is what we see reported all too often in news stories across the country.

  • An 85-year-old driver struck an SUV, then crossed the median and drove onto a sidewalk where a
    24-year-old mother was pushing a stroller. Her 21-month-old daughter was killed.
  • An elderly driver accidentally shifted her car into reverse when she was trying to pull forward
    into a parking space. She killed three people and seriously injured four others.
  • A 98-year-old man driving an RV hit a pickup truck head-on, killing three teenaged girls.

Any driver can make a mistake. And attention lapses affect all of us. But studies show older drivers struggle to overcome more physical challenges than do younger drivers. The problem is that older drivers have more risk factors that can interfere with their ability to drive safely.

  • Health Conditions: Physical impairments and changes in cognitive functioning from common, age-related diseases can diminish driving ability or judgment.
  • Impairment Vision: Deteriorating vision is part of the aging process for most seniors, and nothing could be more critical to good driving than seeing the road, spotting pedestrians, and identifying upcoming obstructions. The CDC reports that vision impairment progresses faster in people 75 and older. Cataracts and glaucoma are common in aging seniors.
  • Impaired Hearing: One third of people over 65 experience hearing problems. For senior drivers, diminished hearing means missing another driver’s horn, or not pulling over for an approaching siren. Combining hearing problems with vision impairment multiplies the potential for accidents.
  • Prescription Medication: How many seniors take prescription medication? More than 75% do, but fewer than one-third know how those medications can impact their ability to drive safely. Antihistamines can cause blurred vision, confusion, fatigue, or lack of coordination. A report by the AAA Foundation indicates that commonly prescribed drugs can raise the risk of crashing by 30%. And it is not unusual for seniors to be taking 4 or 5 medications each day.
  • Elderly Drivers Hitting Buildings: Every now and then, the local news runs a story showing the wreckage caused from an elderly driver stepping on the wrong pedal and smashing through a shop’s front wall. These crashes get reported on the news like they were freak accidents, unusual enough that they had to include it in the newscast. But senior drivers colliding with buildings is not unusual. 

Insurance companies report that 40% of what they call “vehicle-into-building crashes” involve senior drivers. Car crashes into commercial buildings, retail stores, and public buildings happen more than 60 times every day in the US. Annually, 500 people die and another 4,000 suffer serious injuries in these VIBC accidents. Again, a disproportionate number of these collisions involve older drivers.

Most Common Situations for Elderly Driving Accidents:

Accidents can happen anywhere, and at any time. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration collected data telling us when most senior drivers have accidents.

  • Turning left at an intersection on a green light without a dedicated green turn arrow.
  • Turning right at a yield sign to merge with traffic at speeds of 40 to 45 mph.
  • Merging onto a highway from a ramp that has a yield sign. *Changing lanes on a road that has four or more lanes.

Intersections also present challenges to senior drivers that many don’t overcome. The four most common errors older drivers make at intersections are these:

  • Not noticing potential conflicts or traffic signs and signals.
  • Misjudging gaps when crossing traffic.
  • Moving or stopping the vehicle too slowly.
  • Conducting a visual search poorly.

We love our seniors and we want to protect them. But when an older driver accidentally causes a crash, innocent people can suffer terrible injuries, and even death. The senior’s insurance company will be responsible to compensate you.

Insurers will always try to preserve funds and you will need experienced advocates representing you during this most stressful period. Don’t think about going it alone.

If the driver’s negligence was age-related, we know how to prove. Let us put our experience to work for your family.

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