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Freedom To Drive

It is hard to forget that feeling of freedom that comes with getting your driver’s license. For many teens, it is a rite of passage that culminates in the independence to go where you want, when you want, and with whom you want. After the initial phase of gaining the long-awaited license to travel fades, driving becomes just a component of everyday life – one that most of us rarely give second thought to – until we reach the other side of life, and age becomes a factor that may force us to give up our freedom to drive. As people age and begin to slow down, so may their driving ability, as reflexes tend to be delayed and sight and hearing begins to fade with time. At what point does it become a matter of public concern, however?

Older Drivers And Accidents

Across the country, there are rising concerns about the role that age may play in car accidents. This is particularly true in states such as Florida in which there is a higher percentage of elderly citizens, and it is not at all unusual to see news stories about auto accidents involving older members of the population. While many older people are quite capable of driving safely well into their golden years, the age factor cannot be ignored. Anytime an accident occurs, investigators must look to all factors to try to determine a cause – including the age of the driver who caused the crash. In this story about a recent fatal traffic accident, the driver was an elderly woman who hit another vehicle in an intersection, which then triggered a chain reaction of other accidents involving a tractor trailer and three other vehicles. Tragically, a young child and the child’s father were killed in the accident, and several others were injured and required medical attention. While at the time of this article the cause of the accident was not yet known, one eyewitness alleged that the vehicle driven by the elderly woman was being driven at a high rate of speed.

The Statistics

The website for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute notes that fatal motor vehicle crashes  account for a very small percentage of elderly people, but when you look at crash rates per mile driven, there is a noticeable increase beginning at ages in the early 70s, and the rate is highest for drivers 85 years and older. It further notes that older people are less likely to be licensed and are driving fewer miles, but at the same time, in general, older drivers are holding onto their licenses longer and drive more than they have in the past.

Florida’s Attempt To Address Elderly Driver Concerns

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles recognizes that most older drivers remain good drivers, but also notes that steps do need to be taken to be sure that everyone continues to be a safe driver as they get older. It has created a program called “Florida GrandDriver  to educate the public about how age affects driving ability and encourage people to make choices to keep everyone safe. The program’s goals include helping elderly citizens continue to be able to get around when and where they want to while at the same time ensuring everyone’s safety on the roads. The program offers a wealth of information about handling the needs of the older driving population and notes a few signs that may indicate an older person may need assistance with respect to their ability to drive safely, including:

  • Forgetting to put on a seat belt;
  • Difficulty merging or turning;
  • Having trouble seeing others on the road;
  • Missing signage or traffic signals;
  • Slow reactions to sirens and flashing lights;
  • Weaving, drifting, or lane changing without signaling; and
  • Easily getting lost or disoriented.

Despite The Best Preventive Measures…

Though programs such as these are invaluable in helping to keep everyone aware of the special concerns associated with aged drivers, accidents will still occur. When they do, you need to know your rights and responsibilities. If you have been involved in an accident, contact a legal professional for guidance about to proceed. Experienced attorneys are available to advise you what you may be entitled to receive based on your individual case. Contact a Miami auto accident lawyer today to learn the facts.

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