NBC Bay Area News recently reported on a 90-year-old automobile driver who plowed into a Palo Alto sidewalk cafe while trying to parallel park. Two people sustained serious injuries while four others suffered minor injuries. Apparently, the driver accidentally hit the gas, struck another vehicle and then drove up onto the sidewalk. According to police, there was no indication that drugs or alcohol were involved in the crash. Motor vehicle accidents involving elderly drivers lead many to wonder whether the elderly-as a group-present a safety hazard to other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.According to the Physician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers, motorists who are older than 75 years of age are involved in more automobile crashes per mile driven than middle-aged drivers. While younger driver car accidents are often caused by inexperience or speeding, older driver car accidents typically result from inattention, slowed perception and slow response. Older driver crashes are often multiple-vehicle events involving left-hand turns or collisions at intersections resulting from the older driver’s failure to heed traffic signs and signals.Injury Prevention Magazine says that medical impairments, such as cognitive deficits and dementia, increase with age. Vision impairments, such as the normal deterioration in a person’s peripheral vision, also tend to plague older drivers. Another problem which often befalls senior citizens is severe arthritis which may restrict a senior’s ability to turn the steering wheel and press the brake pedal or the accelerator pedal.The California Department of Motor Vehicles observes that many seniors take prescribed medications to control, maintain or treat medical conditions. Some medications-or combinations thereof-end up impairing judgment, memory and coordination. Specifically, certain medications are known to cause drowsiness, blurred vision, dizziness and slowed reaction time. Obviously, if a driver’s cognitive skills are impaired by prescription drugs, that driver would pose a risk of injury to others lawfully using the highways. Deadly accidents can occur if a driver forgets to signal or confuses the brake pedal with the gas pedal.
Business Insider Magazine finds that there are several things one can do in order to determine whether their loved one may not be capable of being behind the wheel. It is suggested that you can:
- Look for opportunities to ride-along with the senior thereby giving you a chance to see first-hand how they are driving and how they handle traffic situations.
- Check to see if the senior citizen’s car has a lot of dings and scratches which could indicate that the senior is having problems with maneuvering the car.
- Note whether the senior is beginning to avoid driving at night, in adverse weather or during rush hour since this may indicate that the senior is becoming less comfortable behind the wheel.
If you believe an older driver may pose safety risks to themselves and others, it is suggested that you have a respectful conversation with the senior citizen and do your utmost to persuade him or her that it may be best if they stop driving. Presenting them with alternative transportation suggestions is often useful.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile accident caused by an elderly driver, you should contact a California attorney experienced in handling motor vehicle accidents. The attorney can advise you on how to seek compensation for the injuries you have sustained.