Are Senior Drivers More at Risk of Causing a Car Accident?

senior driver in New York City - Are Senior Drivers More at Risk of Causing a Car Accident

According to the CDC, the U.S. has approximately 48 million licensed drivers 65 and older, a number that has increased by nearly 70 percent in the past two decades. Although older adults who drive remain independent and mobile, the risk of causing a car accident rises as senior citizens age. As people age, their vision, hearing, reflexes, memory, and cognitive ability may decline, potentially making driving dangerous for older adults. An elderly driver may find driving increasingly difficult, increasing their chances of causing a devastating car crash. 

People injured in accidents caused by elderly drivers may have the right to pursue financial recovery for their harm and loss. To learn more about your rights and options after a collision with an elderly driver, contact our office for more information.

New York Senior Citizen Car Accident Statistics

While some may consider elderly drivers less safe than younger motorists, it’s important to discover how many motor vehicle crashes are caused by senior citizens compared to younger drivers. In a recent year, according to the CDC, approximately 7,500 older drivers died in traffic crashes, while another 200,000 received hospital treatment for crash injuries. Drivers 70 and older have higher rates of motor vehicle fatalities than middle-aged drivers aged 35 to 54, although the CDC notes the increased vulnerability of older drivers to suffering injuries in accidents. 

Elderly car accident statistics reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that, among the older population, the 80-to-84 and 85-and-older age groups had the highest traffic fatality rates. 

Do Elderly Drivers Cause More Car Accidents?

According to the National Safety Council, the rate of driver involvement in fatal crashes decreased for each older age group until the 75-and-older age group. Drivers 19 and under had the highest rate of involvement in fatal traffic accidents out of any age group. Rates steadily decreased for all age groups until the 65 to 74 group, with the lowest rate of any age group at 23.79 male drivers per 100,000 licensed drivers and 7.47 female drivers per 100,000 licensed drivers. However, male drivers 75 and older had a fatal accident involvement rate of 25.91 per 100,000 licensed drivers, and female drivers 75 and older had an involvement rate of 10.11 per 100,000 licensed drivers. 

Although elderly drivers have decades of driving experience to draw upon, they may experience physical and cognitive declines that make driving more challenging. Older drivers may experience worsening vision, loss of hearing, and slowed reflexes, leading to poorer driving skills. Elderly drivers may also have memory problems that cause them to forget simple driving tasks like signaling before turning or changing lanes. Drivers experiencing the early stages of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other cognitive issues may get lost or become confused while driving. Elderly drivers may also become fatigued more easily, putting them at risk of drowsy driving or falling asleep behind the wheel. 

Common Causes of Senior Driver Crashes

Senior drivers may have physical or cognitive issues that reduce their driving abilities and put them at risk of causing a motor vehicle accident. Some of the top causes of elderly driver-car accidents include:

  • Backing up without looking behind
  • Braking unexpectedly
  • Distracted driving
  • Drowsy/fatigued driving
  • Drifting out of the lane or over the yellow line
  • Failing to keep pace with traffic
  • Failing to follow the speed limit
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Making illegal or improper turns or lane changes
  • Putting the car in the wrong gear (e.g., putting the car in drive when an elderly driver intends to back up)
  • Running red lights or stop/yield signs
  • Tailgating/following too closely
  • Traveling the wrong way or getting lost due to memory or cognitive issues
  • Turning or changing lanes without signaling or checking mirrors

Types of Accidents Involving Senior Drivers

The physical and cognitive challenges that an elderly driver may experience may cause them to get into various kinds of traffic accidents, such as:

  • Head-on collisions: Senior drivers who drift over the center line/median or travel the wrong way down the road may have a head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle.
  • Parking lot/driveway accidents: Senior drivers may collide with other vehicles or pedestrians when pulling out of a parking space or driveway without checking their surroundings before putting the car in motion.
  • Pedestrian/bicycle accidents: Older drivers may hit cyclists or pedestrians if they fail to yield the right of way, run red lights/stop signs, or drive in a bike lane or on the sidewalk.
  • Rear-end collisions: Senior drivers may rear-end other vehicles if they have trouble judging a safe distance from the vehicle ahead or if they fail to notice traffic slowing down or stopping. Older drivers may get rear-ended if they unexpectedly brake or stop without reason.
  • Road departure accidents: An elderly driver may run off the road if they drive while fatigued, fall asleep behind the wheel, or suffer a medical emergency. 
  • Side-impact/T-bone collisions: Elderly drivers who run red lights or stop signs may get into T-bone accidents.
  • Sideswipe collisions: Older drivers may sideswipe other vehicles if their cars drift out of the lane into adjacent vehicles:

Compensation Available in Car Accidents Involving Elderly Drivers

New York is a no-fault state for car accidents. That means that after you’ve been injured in a crash caused by someone else, you must first turn to your insurance policy’s personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Your medical bills may use your PIP coverage up to the policy limits, and you still have medical expenses. In that case, you can file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company for your remaining medical expenses. 

Additionally, if you have suffered an injury that qualifies as “serious” under New York law, you could also be entitled to pursue compensation for these additional losses: 

  • Long-term care and support services needed to help you cope with prolonged or permanent severe disabilities
  • Ongoing and future losses of income and job benefits if you become temporarily or permanently disabled from work or suffer a reduction in your earning capacity
  • Physical pain and emotional suffering
  • Reduced quality of life caused by disabilities or significant scarring/disfigurement
  • Vehicle repair expenses or reimbursement of the value of your car if totaled in the accident

Injured By a Senior Driver? Talk to Our Experienced New York Auto Accident Attorneys Today

When you’ve suffered injuries and property damage in a car accident caused by an elderly driver, get legal help to pursue the financial recovery you need for your medical bills and other expenses. Contact Finz & Finz, P.C. today for a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced New York City car accident lawyer to discuss your legal options. 

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.