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Older Drivers and Accident Risks: Myths and Reality

Life expectancy rates are rising in the U.S., and seniors in Georgia now live longer and healthier lives. This means that seniors are also much more likely to drive well into their 70s and even 80s.  The rate of older drivers on our roads has increased over the past few years and is expected to increase in the future. Older drivers are also retaining their licenses longer than before. There are some facts of driving in the golden years, however, that seniors and their family members should be aware of.

Getting older does not necessarily mean that you have to give up your driving privileges. However, it does mean that there are a more few restrictions and testing that seniors must comply with if they want to continue to drive safely.   Georgia law require that seniors above the age of 60 get their licenses renewed every five years in person. Drivers above the age of 60 must take a vision exam when they renew their license. If there are any other signs of impairment, drivers may also be asked to take a written test before their license is renewed. All of these rules are in place to ensure that seniors are able to continue to drive safely, without being a threat to their own safety or the safety of other motorists on the roads.

There are undoubtedly more seniors driving on Atlanta roads now than a few decades ago. Medical advancements have meant longer, healthier and more mobile lives for Georgia’s seniors.  According to federal data, in 2017, there were as many as 28 million licensed motorists above the age of 70 living in the country. This is one of the most at-risk groups of drivers in the United States. Drivers above the age of 70 have higher crash rates per mile travelled compared to younger drivers. However, older drivers are not as much at risk of accidents as teen drivers, and their average crash rates continue to be lower than teens.

Although crash rates involving senior drivers are higher than for other categories of drivers, those rates have slowed down somewhat in recent years. In 2017, 4,974 people over the age of 70 were involved in fatal accidents. That was a 15 percent decrease from 1997.

Contrary to popular belief, older people are very aware of their driving risks, and tend to police themselves, placing restrictions on their own driving in order to remain safe. For example, they may cut down on night time driving to avoid accidents.  Another way for senior drivers to remain safe is to use less busy or quieter routes to their destination.

Awareness campaigns about the risks involving senior motorists have prompted family members and caregivers to be more aware of the risks facing senior drivers. Family members can take steps to intervene when they believe senior motorists are at risk of poor or unsafe driving.  Recent advancements in auto safety have included safety features that are designed to help older drivers continue to drive safely.  For example, older drivers are often on more than one medication and drug interactions can cause them to feel drowsy behind the wheel. Lane departure warning systems can help identify the early signs of drowsy driving – drifting or veering off the lane – and this can alert the driver to prevent an accident.

With the combination of regular driving check-ins, improved auto technology, and awareness, seniors can continue to drive safely and maintain their independence and mobility while also being good road companions to everyone.

The Atlanta car accident lawyers at the Katz Law Firm represent persons injured in car accidents in the metro Atlanta region and across Georgia.