Last week, a reporter from the Des Moines Register interviewed me for an article on the national debate on elderly drivers causing auto accidents: Do they pose a great risk to others and should therefore face more restrictions, or could that constitute age-based discrimination? As a personal injury attorney handling car accidents and truck accidents, a significant portion of my practice involves elderly drivers.
This reporter found me through my blog on older drivers. Our firm cares deeply about the well being and safety of the elderly as well as how it relates to Michigan drivers. I was pleased to be included in the story about such an important topic:
Steven Gursten, a Michigan auto accident lawyer who has written extensively about driver safety, counters: “That right to drive ends when they become a threat of injuring or killing innocent drivers.”
He recommends requiring vision screening for older drivers, more frequent license renewals and some basic medical tests, such as a mini-mental state exam (a screening tool for dementia), and a basic test for physical dexterity and coordination.
“What you will find is that by taking a couple of very common-sense steps, almost all of these accidents involving elderly drivers are completely preventable,” Gursten said. “We as a society have to recognize that because of the process of aging, there will be some deterioration of peoples’ basic coordination and perception.”
These changes can dramatically affect an older driver’s reaction time, making his or her vehicle a dangerous weapon on the road, Gursten said.
Safety Tips for Older Drivers
Research as shown that even though older drivers travel fewer miles per year, they are more prone to being seriously injured or killed in a traffic crash. Based on estimated annual miles traveled, the fatality rate for drivers age 65 and older is a whopping 17 times higher than the rate for drivers 25 to 64 years old, according to the Michigan State Police.
But there are measures that can be taken to help prevent car crashes caused by senior citizens. Here are seven tips for seniors from the Mayo Clinic:
1. Remain physically active: Staying physically active improves strength and flexibility, which may help with actions such as maneuvering the steering wheel and looking over your shoulder.
2. Manage chronic conditions: Work with your doctor to manage all chronic conditions, especially those that can affect the ability to drive safely.
3. Schedule regular vision and hearing tests: Impaired hearing may impede your ability to hear an approaching emergency vehicle, train or another automobile. And common, age-related vision problems — such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration — can make it difficult to see clearly.
4. Know your limitations: Consider physical limitations and make any necessary adjustments. You might also want to adjust the vehicle or get a new one to better suit your needs.
5. Drive under optimal conditions: When possible, drive during the day, in good weather on quiet roads and in familiar areas. Avoid rush hour and times when there is poor visibility.
6. Plan ahead: Plan your route ahead of time so that you don’t find yourself trying to read a map while driving.
7. Update your driving skills: Consider taking a refresher course for older drivers.
Finally, our personal injury attorneys stress the importance of recognizing when it’s time to consider other alternatives. If you become confused while driving or you cannot drive safely, think about taking a bus, using a van service or other local transportation options. Giving up your car keys doesn’t mean your independence is gone.
If you have been in an auto accident and need help, please call Michigan Auto Law at (248) 353-7575 for a free case evaluation.
– Steven M. Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top attorneys handling serious car and truck accident injury cases and automobile insurance no-fault litigation. Steve has received the largest jury verdict for an automobile accident case in Michigan in four of the past seven years, including 2008, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly.