More Seattle Seniors May Mean Greater Road Danger

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on February 26, 2018

There are a lot more drivers on Washington’s roads nowadays…and many of them are senior citizens! A Seattle Times article reported on the fact that the fastest-growing population in Seattle is the 65-and-older crowd. In addition, the article declared that we’ve hit a milestone: one million seniors in 2015.

As of December 2017, the number of licensed senior drivers hit the same milestone: 1,037,969.

This could be good news, because our elderly are more mobile and independent. But it can also be dangerous for seniors and the people who share the road with them. Here’s why.

The Body Changes As It Ages

Whether seniors are more dangerous behind the wheel has been a hotly debated topic for decades. While it’s true that not all elderly drivers are dangerous, some of them definitely are. One recent case in New Jersey highlighted this problem.

In early January 2018, an 81-year-old woman slammed into a New Jersey hair salon with her 2015 Volkswagen. A 60-year-old woman just leaving the salon was hit. She was taken to the hospital with leg and other lower body injuries, while the driver refused to be evaluated by medical personnel at the scene.

This is one of the biggest problems with seniors driving. Not only do they usually believe themselves to be healthy and okay, but if they aren’t, they don’t want others to know about it. However, several physical changes are inevitable as you get older, making it harder to drive defensively.

  • One of the greatest risks is a loss of vision as people age. This can make it difficult to see other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. It can also prevent you from seeing a speedometer on the dashboard, which tells you when you’re going too fast.
  • Seniors’ hearing may also be impaired, preventing them from hearing horns from other vehicles when they want to make a dangerous lane change, or from hearing a group of children approaching a nearby crosswalk.
  • The elderly may also not be able to react as quickly as younger drivers. Police suspected that the woman in New Jersey accidentally stepped on the gas instead of the brake, and didn’t react in time to correct her mistake.
  • Of course, even more serious conditions such as dementia and strokes can hinder a person’s ability to drive. While a stroke can cause someone to veer off the road or hit another vehicle, dementia can cause seniors to become confused about the reality in front of them, which could also cause a crash.

How to Approach Senior Driving with Loved Ones

None of us, including seniors, want to admit that we aren’t safe to drive, fearing we’ll lose mobility and independence. Because Washington does not discriminate against drivers based on age alone, it is often left to family members to step in and have a talk with their elderly loved one before a serious accident happens.

So how should family members bring it up?

  • Start by selecting one family member to bring up the topic with the senior. Holding a large family meeting can make the senior feel trapped, and one voice bringing the opinions of many is just as effective.
  • That person should bring the topic up early, to start a very casual conversation. A daughter can start by asking her dad about any warning signs that his driving has become dangerous.
  • In addition, make observations about the senior’s driving: go on small trips with him, and take notice of how easily he can get to places, how easily he remembers directions, and how safe his driving is overall. Having real examples to point to presents a much stronger argument than simply telling someone that he or she is too old to be driving!
  • Make suggestions for the senior’s future transportation, whether family members will be taking over the job or setting up Ubers. Bringing up a problem without having a ready solution can make people more upset than they need to be, and feeling as though they are left without options.
  • Lastly, always place the emphasis on your loved one and his or her safety. Make sure your senior knows that the family simply doesn’t want to see anyone get hurt, and that they love the senior very much.

These are not conversations anyone wants to have, but they are important. With so many senior drivers on Washington’s roads, there’s a real possibility that there will be more age-related car accidents soon. Protect your loved one and yourself, and if you’re the victim of an accident, speak to the Seattle car accident lawyers of Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. Your consultation is free, and we’ll work hard to get you and your family that compensation you need to recover.

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