senior man driving a car

Driving Risks for Seniors

Utah’s senior population is growing. In Salt Lake City, 10 percent of residents are over the age of 65 — most of them still very active and healthy. However, this growing senior population comes with certain complications, one of which is road safety.

Heightened Risks of Injuries

Growing old can lead to loss of overall mobility, weaker physique, slower reaction time, and vision loss. All four contribute to an increased risk of automobile accidents in the senior population. Individuals over the age of 65 have a 16 percent higher chance of being involved in a vehicular accident (compared to the rest of the community) and an over 500 percent chance of suffering a fatal injury. Changes in the body’s skeletal system and musculature make seniors more vulnerable to injuries. Even with a seatbelt, a simple bump at 20-30 miles per hour can cause whiplash or other damages. Medication can also further decrease reaction times, and even a 10-30 millisecond delay can be crucial in emergencies. Driving at night can be especially dangerous as the constant change in brightness can be confusing and disorienting. Darkness also requires faster reaction times as vision is limited to only a few meters ahead.

car speeding on the curve

Safety Precautions

Increased risks of accidents and injuries don’t mean you have to forgo driving entirely. Small changes in your habits — in and out of your car — can make your drives safer. Schedule your trips during the day and avoid peak driving hours. Limit your driving during clear skies and try to avoid driving in the rain or snow. Bad weather conditions that limit visibility or make it harder to maneuver increases the risks for all drivers, not just seniors. Wear your seatbelt even on short trips and take your car to a shop for maintenance regularly. Outside of your vehicle, try to engage in some physical activity. This keeps your body healthy and your reactions sharp. Don’t medicate and drive. Medication can be as detrimental to your driving skills as alcohol, and you can also get charged with DUI. Consider taking a Lyft or an Uber if you recently took medication or you’re feeling a bit tired. Those few dollars spent on a ride can prevent a trip to the emergency room or worse.

Scams and Fraudulent Claims

Unscrupulous individuals or organized fraud rings often target seniors in staged auto accident scams or blackmail. These individuals will often pressure seniors to settle on the spot and not to report the accident, threatening them that they (seniors) can lose their license or insurance. Staged accidents are becoming more common across the nation, and Salt Lake City is no exception. These staged collisions can be very disorienting for seniors, and you might blindingly follow instructions out of confusion. Install a dashcam and don’t get out of your car until you call your lawyer or the authorities.

Getting older not only increases your chances of getting into an accident; it also increases your chances of getting injured or worse. Take measures that will ensure your safety from crashes and individuals who would prey on your vulnerabilities.

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