Aging Motorists Find Roads Harder to Navigate


The proportion of older drivers on Georgia’s roadways is increasing as more baby boomers reach retirement age, creating certain specific traffic accident risks.

While most older drivers are cautious drivers, studies have shown seniors are more likely to be involved in car crashes involving angles, merging and intersections.

Recent research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests that the most common error for older drivers, compared to their middle-age counterparts, is inadequate surveillance. In other words, older drivers may stop and scan the road, but they fail to perceive an oncoming car’s speed or simply don’t see what’s coming. Or, they’re watching cars but overlook a red light or stop sign.

For motorists above age 70, those types of errors primarily include looking but not seeing another vehicle 71 percent of the time or failing to see a traffic signal, compared to 40 percent of middle-age drivers, according to the research.

Declines in Perception and Physical Ability Lead to Driving Errors

Anne McCartt, IIHS vice president for research, says older drivers’ errors usually stem from problems associated with aging such as declines in cognitive, perceptual and physical abilities.

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The use of prescription drugs and changing medicines also affect the abilities of older motorists.

Visual impairments affect how well older drivers can perceive gaps between vehicles and the speed other cars are going, the study says. Senior motorists who were involved in accidents involving gap and speed errors were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with a visual impairment than seniors who committed other critical driving mistakes.

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Physical factors such as blackouts, drowsiness and seizures are a major cause of crashes among senior drivers who drift out their lane or run off the road. That happens in about a fourth of wrecks involving older motorists. Middle-age drivers, by comparison, are more likely to leave their lane or the road because of distractions, speeding or overcompensating when their vehicle drifts.

Consider a comparison of the accident contributing factors involving older drivers compared to middle aged drivers:

Factor Age 70+  Age 35-54
Inadequate surveillance 33% 22%
Misjudge Speed 6% 3%
Medical Issue 6% 4%
Failure to Obey Signal 6% 4%
Daydreaming 6% 4%

 

Even more telling, about 66 percent of inadequate surveillance errors involving senior motorists and 77 percent of speed misjudgment and gap errors take place when the drivers try to make left-hand turns at intersections.

Danger of Intersection Accidents

A report by TRIP, a nonprofit group, in conjunction with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, found that intersections represent a growing problem for senior motorists.

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The study indicated that 37 percent of fatal accidents involving drivers over 65 in a recent year took place at intersections. In comparison, only 20 percent of crashes by younger drivers involved intersections.

Georgia Requires Additional Testing of Older Drivers Finding Solutions

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People age at different rates. But the number of fatal crashes per mile traveled increases when people turn 75 because of deteriorating vision, in addition to physical problems including arthritis and failing strength, according to the IIHS.

Signs of diminished driving ability include:

  • Having minor accidents or near misses
  • Being unable to concentrate
  • Being unable to read road signs or traffic signals
  • Driving too slow or fast
  • Having other drivers honk frequently at you

The state of Georgia requires that motorists ages 60 and older renew their driver’s license every five years.

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As part of the license renewal process, drivers who are 64 and older also have to take an in-person vision test. If they can’t pass the vision test, they’ll need to get a vision report form completed by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist.

If you have a loved one in your family who you notice is running into fender benders and scrapes or other driving problems, consider having a long talk with them to discuss the dangers they face. This is a problem most adult children will have to confront. If you have been injured in an accident caused by another driver, an Atlanta car accident lawyer can review the specifics and explain your legal rights to compensation.