The American Medical Association says drivers older than 65 nationwide, including here in Alabama, are at an increased risk of being involved in fatal traffic accidents. It is said that the number of mature drivers who are involved in car accidents per mile driven exceeds that of middle-aged drivers, between 55 and 64, by about 50 percent. The physical fragility of mature drivers makes them particularly vulnerable.
There are three physical functions that are vital for safe driving that deteriorates with age, namely vision, motor function and cognition. Not only is adequate field of vision compromised as a person gets older, but so is visual perception. Mature drivers commonly need more time to adjust to varying levels of light, glare and contrasts.
Diseases such as arthritis can limit a person’s movements from getting into the car, fastening the seat belt and efficiently managing the controls of the vehicle and turning to face traffic. Impaired cognitive skills, such as visual processing, memory, executive skills and attention can lead to fatalities on the road. Medical conditions like dementia and medications that are often mixed or combined can hugely limit cognition.
It is understandable that mature drivers want to cling to the independence of driving themselves, but sometimes restrictions need to be enforced to ensure their safety. If family members don’t convince them to stop driving when they start endangering their own lives, law enforcement will. Unfortunately, car accidents typically also cause harm to others who then have the right to pursue financial relief by filing personal injury or wrongful death claims in an Alabama civil court.