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Dispelling the Myth That Elderly Drivers Pose the Highest Risk of Causing Traffic Accidents

May 25, 2014

We have all heard the rather insensitive references to senior drivers being less safe when behind the wheel of a car. "Old lady driver jokes" are popular and prevalent with comedians despite their inappropriate and disrespectful tone. These stereotypes are often based on widely acknowledged physical limitations that can result from aging, including declines in hearing, reflexes and cognitive abilities. The presumption that elderly drivers are "less safe" often is accepted without much analysis or factual inquiry. It is legitimate to inquire whether elderly drivers are really more likely to be involved in a car accident in DeKalb County and the surrounding areas of Georgia than other age groups.

Although statistical data suggests that age-related factors may contribute to car accidents involving seniors, an accurate comparison with other age groups requires a more nuanced analysis. The likelihood of a senior being involved in an accident is not any worse than that of young inexperienced drivers. The car accident rate for drivers over 75 is roughly equivalent to that of inexperienced teen drivers.

While it is certainly reasonable to surmise that physical and cognitive changes related to aging may impact driving skills, this assumption may not provide a complete picture given a recent study. An article published in Accident Analysis and Prevention concluded that seniors are not more likely than teen drivers to be involved in car accidents despite potential diminished physical or mental capabilities. The researchers found that seniors are more inclined to drive carefully and respond more quickly to potential roadway hazards than younger drivers with less experience. For example, prior studies have shown that seniors are not as efficient at seeing and identifying pedestrians but compensate for their longer response time by driving slower and more cautiously.

Interestingly, the study also suggests that the caution and prudence exercised by elderly drivers also results in greater perception of driving hazards than that exhibited by younger drivers. The researchers divided test subjects into three separate age groups and asked them to observe roadway risk perception footage while they were being monitored with an eye tracking system. Elderly drivers were able to perceive accident risks as efficiently as younger drivers, but younger demonstrated a tendency to miss minor hazards that followed immediately after a serious accident risk, whereas seniors did not fail to perceive both car accident risks.

The study suggests that it may be premature to presume that sharper reflexes and keener perception are the keys to safe driving. This study of driving accident risks involving elderly drivers provides evidence that caution, prudence and experience play as much or an even greater role in preventing DeKalb county car accidents. This is not necessarily inconsistent with every day experience since distracted drivers, drunk drivers and speeding drivers are amongst the greatest causes of auto collisions in Georgia. The implications of this study are that most auto accidents are not really accidents, but rather the product of a conscious decision to drive with less than the full level of attention and care needed to prevent injury to others. If you are involved in a DeKalb County car accident caused by an inattentive or careless driver, our experienced DeKalb County Car Accident Attorneys at Montlick and Associates may be able to help.

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Category: Auto Accidents

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.

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