Elderly Drivers Are More Prone To Cause Accidents
One-fourth of fatal car accidents in Wisconsin involve an elderly driver. That is higher than anywhere else in the country, according to TRIP, a national transportation research group.
Americans over the age of 65 are one of the fastest-growing groups, with the U.S. Census Bureau reporting one in five people in the U.S. — or 78 million — will be considered “elderly,” which will outnumber children under 18 in this country for the first time. In Wisconsin, it’s projected that one in four people will be over 65 by 2040. Ideally, these predictions would prompt policy officials to prepare by creating traffic safety infrastructure that would meet the needs of this growing population. This could include things like:
- Self-driving cars
- Additional public transit and other transportation options
- Bigger/brighter road signs and lettering
- Longer merge lanes
- Continuing driver education for older motorists
Senior Drivers Need Full Insurance Coverage
The car accident attorneys at Lein Law Offices in Hayward recognize that while older drivers are generally more cautious, they still face unique challenges that can make them more prone to collisions. That’s why it’s a good idea for senior motorists to carry not only adequate insurance levels, bodily injury liability and additional umbrella coverage, but also higher limits of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (which will cover them if they are injured in a crash by a hit-and-run driver, or one who doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have sufficient coverage).
Minimum auto insurance rates for all drivers in Wisconsin include:
- $25,000 for injury or death of one person
- $50,000 for injury or death of two or more people
- $10,000 in property damage
- $25,000 uninsured motorist coverage for injury of one person
- $50,000 uninsured motorist coverage for the whole accident
Wisconsin ranks No. 20 for the most licensed drivers over the age of 65, recording some 817,900 recently. A total of 26 percent of fatalities in the state involve at least one driver over the age of 65.
Factors For Higher Elderly Driver Car Accidents In Wisconsin
Some of the factors that put older motorists at risk (as noted by the National Institute on Aging) include:
- Stiff joints and muscles — When joints stiffen and muscles weaken due to old age or arthritis, they could affect the ability to drive. They can make it tougher to turn the steering wheel quickly, brake safely or turn the head. Vehicles with automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes and large mirrors may offer some compensation.
- Poor eyesight — Older folks are more susceptible to conditions that can negatively impact eyesight, such as glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration. There are also numerous medicines that can cause macular degeneration. People over 65 need to see their physicians every one or two years. Older drivers who have trouble seeing, especially in the dark, should use caution when driving at night (or avoid it if they can), and make certain their eyeglasses and contact prescriptions are up to date.
- Hearing difficulty — Difficulty hearing can make it tougher to notice horns honking, sirens, noises from your own car or nearby pedestrians. These are signs that warn you when you need to be on alert, move out of the way or slow down. Have your hearing checked every three years after turning 50.
- Slower reaction and reflexes. Part of this can be chalked up to weaker muscles and stiff joints, but sometimes, symptoms like tingling or loss of feeling in your hands and feet can make it tougher to steer or use the pedals. If you’ve suffered a stroke or have been diagnosed of a condition like Parkinson’s disease, it might not be safer to drive anymore. Make sure you leave plenty of space between yourself and the car in front of you and brake early when you recognize you need to stop.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Those in the early stages of these conditions are sometimes still able to drive, but as their cognitive health declines and decision-making skills worsen, they must stop. Unfortunately, those with conditions like dementia also don’t realize the extent of their decline, and intervention from a physician or family member may be required. If the elder driver is reticent to giving up the keys, you may file a report with the Department of Transportation. It’s called a Driver Condition or Behavior Report, MV3141. Keep in mind that you will not be able to remain anonymous with this report, due to Wisconsin’s open records laws, but you may be able to confidentially report such information to your loved one’s physician or local law enforcement.
Although many older citizens can continue driving well into their golden years, it’s important to recognize that driving is a complex skill that requires both physical and cognitive abilities to be sharp.
If you are an elderly person involved in a crash or in a collision with a driver who was elderly, contact our Hayward car accident attorneys for a free consultation.