In recent years, cases of elderly drivers hitting pedestrians and other cars in parking lots are increasingly common. In November of 2014, a pregnant woman was hit and killed by an 88-year-old driver who mixed up the gas and brake pedals. In 2003, an elderly man struck and killed nine people when he confused the gas and brake pedals and headed into a farmer's market. An additional 54 were hurt. Unfortunately, these cases are all too common, and the result is often a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Paying attention to these common occurrences can help you protect yourself or somebody you care about.
1. Medical Complications
The elderly drivers most at risk for accidents are those over the age of 75, the age at which fatal crash rates increase. Medical complications could be just one reason for an increase in accidents. Age-related declines in vision and cognitive abilities are also to blame. Elderly drivers are also commonly dealing with slower reaction times, sometimes due to medication. Speak to a doctor to ensure that driving is still safe at this stage.
2. Pedal Misidentification
This is typically the case when a driver claims that he or she "mistook the brake and gas pedal," similar to the stories mentioned above. Not only does the car not stop, but it also speeds up to hit individuals and other vehicles in a more dangerous manner. Unfortunately, this error is commonly made due to issues like dementia that can contribute to a decline cognitive function.
3. Driver Distractions
Although distracted driving is most commonly associated with young drivers, even those who are older may struggle with distractions caused by phones, GPS, radio and food. Aging commonly makes it more difficult to multitask as well. Even speaking to a passenger can be a problem.
4. Decreased Flexibility
Range of motion tends to decrease with age. This occurs much quicker when muscles are not commonly used. The unfortunate result is the reduced ability to back up safely. Experts recommend that elderly drivers avoid backing up whenever possible. It is also helpful to stay active in as many ways as possible and to invest in a rear-view camera.
Plenty of elderly people are excellent drivers, but not everybody maintains good driving strategies into the later years. If you think that your loved one could be at risk to cause an accident or to be held responsible in a personal injury claim, it is wise to consider these potential contributing factors.