Challenges Older Drivers Face When Driving

David W. Hodges
David Hodges is a founding partner of Kennedy Hodges. He focuses his practice on personal injury claims.

Driving is a freedom and privilege that most motorists wouldn’t give up, which is why many older drivers are still behind the wheel. In fact, according to a report, in 2012, there were almost 36 million licensed drivers age 65 and older in the United States. Although older drivers are often just as capable of driving as younger ones are, some face physical and cognitive challenges that prevent them from driving as safely as they could.

Physical Limitations That Older Drivers Face

Getting older and feeling the effects associated with it are inevitable. Although drivers can take some measures to compensate for their weaknesses, Elderly Hands Holding Onto the Steering Wheelthey can’t always make up for their physical limitations. Some of the problems that senior motorists often face include:

  • Vision impairments. Older motorists may have difficulty with depth perception, seeing at night, and headlight glare. They may also have problems seeing movement, people, and objects outside of their direct lines of sight, which can potentially cause accidents. Additionally, seeing traffic signs and lights and even recognizing familiar places can be troublesome for older drivers.

  • Physical ailments. Stiffness and pain caused by aging is something that just about every senior experiences. However, it can become too much and prevent older drivers from being able to turn their heads, brake safely, or even maneuver the steering wheel properly. As you may imagine, these limitations can stop some seniors from being able to safely operate their vehicles.

  • Hearing difficulties. Drivers must use most of their senses in order to drive as safe as possible. Being able to hear what is going on around them is essential to driving as carefully as possible. Horns, sirens, and brakes screeching are clues as to what is going on around them, and being aware that they are there could prevent serious crashes from occurring.

Mental Limitations

Along with physical limitations, seniors also often experience certain mental problems that can affect the way they operate their vehicles. Although some issues are minor, others can make it dangerous for them to sit behind the wheel.

  • Slower reaction times. Safe driving requires motorists to be able to react quickly, make fast decisions, and calculate risk and safety. When a driver isn’t capable of performing these tasks, serious accidents can occur. Older drivers tend to have difficulties with these cognitive skills, which can put them at a major disadvantage when they are behind the wheel.

  • Mental disorders. Seniors are prone to experiencing a variety of mental disorders that can make driving dangerous. For instance, dementia can prevent a driver from knowing where he is, and from even realizing he is experiencing driving difficulties. Although there isn’t a law that prohibits those with dementia from driving, doing so can be quite dangerous. Those who are close with seniors who have dementia must pay attention to their loved ones and stop them from driving if it becomes too risky.

  • Side effects of medication. A variety of different medications can cause seniors to experience side effects that negatively impact their driving. For instance, medications that cause one to feel tired, groggy, confused, dizzy, and less alert can create disaster on the road. Unfortunately, many of these medications are required for some seniors to function, which means they can’t ultimately stop taking them just to drive.

Staying Safe While Driving

Senior drivers can keep themselves and others safe while behind the wheel if they take certain precautions. For instance, knowing their limitations is key, as is staying off of the road when they feel they are no longer capable of operating their vehicles safely. Additionally, refraining from driving in inclement weather and traveling in areas in which they aren’t familiar can help to keep them safe. Consulting with a doctor to ensure that they are capable of driving, and taking a refresher driving course can help senior motorists drive their best.

Helping Victims Defend Their Rights

If you were the victim of an accident and have experienced major injuries as a result, you may be entitled to receive compensation that can pay for your medical bills and other costs related to the accident. The attorneys at Kennedy Hodges, LLP, want to help. Schedule your free consultation by calling 855.947.0707.