According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, senior citizens across the country account for 17% of fatal pedestrian accidents and 14% of all traffic accident deaths, even though they amount to only 9% of the population. While some claim that elderly drivers are unsafe on the roads, though, many studies show that drivers under the age of 85 are in fact safer than teen drivers. However, according to Carnegie Mellon University researchers and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers 85 and over have four times the fatal accident rate of teen drivers.
The issue, most experts agree, is not age but rather cognitive function and physical ability. The problem is that all drivers age differently. Some may remain sharp and physically active well into their 80s and beyond – including staying safer behind the wheel – while other motorists may start to experience dementia and other dangerous conditions well before their 70th birthday. It becomes a huge challenge for law enforcement and legislators to find a way to prevent car accidents in Miami and other cities by keeping unsafe drivers off the road while not limiting the freedoms of safe drivers.
In some cases, the decision to limit or take away one’s ability to drive is highly fraught. Families may want to prevent a loved one from being in a serious car or truck accident in Miami but may not be sure when to act. Or, they may not want to argue with a loved one and may hope that doctors or law enforcement make the decision about driving safety.
A big problem for families is that it is not just about driving and about preventing traffic accidents in Miami and Florida. It is about independence. Elderly loved ones who can no longer drive may have a harder time getting around and taking care of everyday tasks such as grocery shopping. They may face more isolation and a declining quality of life, which medical experts agree leads to declines in mental and physical health.
According to safety experts, there are a number of warning signs that families may need to step in and discuss hanging up the keys of an elderly driver:
•Signs of minor accidents, such as scrapes or dings on the car or an elderly loved one’s property
•Instances where an elderly driver has gotten lost, even in places they know
•Vision difficulties that make it hard to see the road signs, the road, and other vehicles
•A number of near-misses or minor accidents
•Difficulty estimating gaps in traffic at exit ramps and at intersections
•An elderly loved one getting confused while driving or experiencing road rage, causing aggressive driving or honking from other motorists
•Slow response times
•Difficulty using the gas and brake pedals – confusing the two, for example, or having a difficult time moving from one to the other
•Problems focusing on driving
•An elderly loved one getting multiple warnings or tickets from law enforcement
•Difficulty physically moving around to check blind spots
Of course, everyone has a bad experience driving or some difficulty once in a while, but if you notice one or more of these signs in yourself or a loved one, consider limiting driving and visiting a doctor and a driver-improvement or driving rehabilitation class. A doctor can help determine whether there are health barriers to safe driving while a qualified driver rehabilitation course can help a motorist drive more safely even with physical challenges.
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