More older drivers on the road, fewer North Carolina car accidents involving senior drivers

By 2030, one in five Americans will be at least 65 years old and there will be nearly 10 million U.S. residents 85 or older. Of those, an estimated 90 percent will be licensed to drive, the AAA Foundation reports. To encourage families to speak with older adults about the importance of safe driving, our North Carolina Car Accident attorneys are promoting “Older Driver Safety Awareness Week”, which runs through Dec. 10.

The week-long campaign hopes to help families take that first step in talking about driving-and-aging issues. “The issue of senior driver safety and mobility touches millions of families,” said AAA spokesman, Jake Nelson. “Older Driver Safety Awareness Week is an opportunity for families to start a conversation about safe mobility and address any real and perceived challenges associated with driving and aging.”
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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that while there are more senior drivers (aged 70 and up) on the road today than in 1997, the number of fatal or serious car accidents involving senior drivers has dropped significantly. Previously IIHS officials were concerned that with an anticipated spike in the number of older drivers on the road – the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population is aged 65 and older – so would the number of fatal or serious car accidents involving seniors increase.

With that said, an IIHS 2010 status report found that while the number of Americans 70 and older with driver’s licenses increased from 73 percent of the 24.4 million in 1997 to 78 percent of the 28 million in 2008, fatal car accidents for this age group dropped about 37 percent.

In part, experts believe a depressed economy plays some role in the decline. After all, going out, even filling up the tank, can be seen as luxuries for someone watching their cash flow. In addition, older drivers are more often self-policing. Deciding independently (or with the gentle nudging of loved ones or the family physician), to restrict or stop driving altogether. A third reason for the decline is linked to state-by-state provisional licensing policies that require older drivers to renew their licenses more frequently and with more rigorous review (i.e., vision and/or road testing).

The IIHS reports that in North Carolina, as of Jan. 01, 2011, all drivers aged 66 and older will be required to renew their driver’s license every five years. Regular renewal interim is eight years.

A recent AAA survey found that nearly 9-out-of-10 respondents were “concerned” with an older parent’s driving. AAA offers a few suggestions to help families facing this difficult conversation.

~ Don’t be afraid to talk about your concerns with other friends or family. Better yet, don’t be afraid bring it up with the family physician. With that said, bringing the subject up with the driver in question is another matter and should be handled diplomatically and respectfully and at the appropriate time and place.

~ Be proactive. Twice a year conduct a driving assessment with your driver. Look for changes. Regular observation will help you decide when and how to bring up the subject of driving limitations.

~ Don’t leave them stranded. Find other ways for your senior to get around.

Our Winston-Salem car accident lawyers with Lee & Smith know that being involved in a serious or fatal car accident, or losing a loved one to a fatal car crash, can be among the most trying times in your life. We hope that if you are involved in a serious car accident you will call us at 1-800-887-1965 or email our law offices to schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights.

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