Americans are more health-conscious than ever. Thanks to this new attitude and advances in medical technology, we are living longer, more productive lives. As we age, however, we begin to lose our sharp vision and some fine motor control. As a result, older Americans are more likely to get into accidents on the road.
In 2012, motor vehicle crashes killed more than 5,500 adults and injured 214,000 more. Adults ages 85 and older are most vulnerable, though your risk of being in an accident increases exponentially after 70. Physical changes, vision changes, and a decline in cognitive functions are risk factors for age-related car accidents.
Driving is an important aspect of maintaining our independence as we age. Luckily, older Americans can take some simple steps to protect themselves when behind the wheel.
Wear Your Seatbelt
This is one of the simplest things anyone can do to decrease the risk of being injured in a car accident. Older Americans already participate in higher rates of seatbelt use than younger groups. Of those involved in fatal crashes, 75% were wearing seatbelts—compared with 66% of those ages 18 to 64. Buckling up is easy to remember and greatly decreases the risk of injury or fatality. In Texas, we wear our seatbelts more than the national average (at a rate of 94%, compared to 86% nationally). Keep up the good work, and buckle up for safety.
Drive When Conditions Are Optimal
Whenever you can, avoid inclement weather conditions. Older adults are already more likely to limit their driving during bad weather and at night. Overall, they tend to drive fewer miles than their younger counterparts. Driving during times of optimum visibility can decrease the likelihood of an accident. If you must drive after dark or in the rain, ask someone for help.
Do Not Drink and Drive
Older drivers are less likely to get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated. Only 7% of drivers who were involved in fatal accidents had a blood alcohol content above the legal limit of .08. For comparison, nearly a quarter of drivers aged 18 to 64 involved in fatal accidents had a BAC of over .08.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances is never worth the risk. If you anticipate drinking some alcoholic beverages, arrange for alternate transportation. Designate a driver or call a cab.
Other Protective Measures
Older drivers can take other steps to ensure their safety on the road. Try some of these preventive measures to lessen your risk of injury in a car accident:
• Participate in regular low-impact exercise, such as walking or water aerobics, to keep your muscles strong. Muscle tone and flexibility are important aspects of driving—even if we do not necessarily think about it.
• Schedule an eye exam once per year. Our vision is one of the first things to diminish as we age, so regular exams are essential.
• Plan your route before getting into your car, avoiding highways and other busy roads whenever possible. Opt for back streets and well-lit areas if driving at night.
• Use alternatives if you find your ability to drive waning. Options include public transit and carpooling with a friend.
Safety is your utmost priority on the road. But if you have been involved in an accident, you need the services of an attorney. If you think you have the grounds for a personal injury claim due to an auto accident, contact a member at our experienced law firm for a free initial consultation. We will help you decide on an appropriate course of action, risk-free. Contact us today.