In densely populated states such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, driving safety for all groups is an important issue that every resident should be concerned with. Moreover, with the Department of Transportation’s estimate of a 77 percent increase of drivers over 65 by 2045, we need to make safe driving for seniors a top priority.
Though many of Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s senior drivers still function well on their own, many others often have decreased cognitive abilities and need assistance operating a motor vehicle.
What are unique risks that seniors face in the event of an accident?
Senior drivers face unique risks such as diminished capacities of eyesight, hearing, reaction time, and even attention span. It is because of these diminished functions that senior drivers must be extra careful while operating a motor vehicle, and should also be aware of the physical challenges that make seniors more susceptible to accident-related injuries.
What physical challenges make seniors more susceptible to injury?
Senior drivers are more likely to sustain more serious injuries than younger persons are in exactly the same type of accident, due largely to a general loss of bone and muscle strength in the elderly.
Weakened bones and muscles contribute to the increased risk of bone fractures during an auto accident. Commonly fractured body parts among the elderly include the vulnerable areas of the knees, hips, and back, which can all be very painful and costly to treat.
Further, spinal discs in our back deteriorate as a natural part of the aging process. Unfortunately, because of this deterioration, any type of trauma (such as a minor, low-speed auto accident) can misplace discs and vertebra, causing a spinal fracture.
Though these injuries sound daunting, there is good news. The prognosis can be very good if a patient receives proper treatment immediately following the accident and continues to receive proper care throughout the healing process.
What are some driving tips for seniors to avoid these types of injuries?
Seniors can avoid accident-related injuries entirely by considering several key factors before getting behind the wheel.
Their body’s limitations
Age can play a role in our reflexes and ability to react quickly. But this is more significant for some than for others because everyone ages differently.
Health conditions may reduce driving skills, and if your loved is taking medication, it is important to be aware of ways it may interfere with her ability to operate a vehicle safely. For instance, medicines that cause sleepiness could be dangerous when taken prior to driving.
Having good vision and hearing is important, too, so if your loved one has impaired vision or hearing, she may not be fit to drive. It is also important to be aware of any weakness in the limbs. Your loved one needs to make sure her arms are strong enough to turn the wheel and her legs are strong enough to press the pedals.
In a similar vein, make sure that your loved one takes care of her health. Make sure she gets regular checkups (physical, hearing, and vision), manages any medical conditions, and takes any necessary medications.
These all can be contributing factors in a driver’s ability at any age. It is a good idea to talk to your loved one’s doctor about how any medical conditions or medications may affect her driving ability.
Time of day and weather related conditions
Always be aware of the challenges elderly drivers may face when driving in bad weather or during certain times of the day. Heavy snow, ice, and rain can be dangerous conditions that seniors – and other drivers, for that matter – may want to avoid if possible.
If your loved one’s vision is fine for daytime driving, but it becomes more difficult at night, then try to keep her from driving just before the sun sets. And consider putting off trips in the car when you know there is dense traffic because it sometimes is difficult to navigate.
Is there anything else my loved one can do?
Refresher driving courses are an excellent way for seniors to remind themselves of the rules of the road. These courses are also an excellent way for seniors to evaluate whether they can still operate a motor vehicle in a safe manner.
Also, be sure to let your loved one know that she should not be ashamed to admit that she may not be able to drive carefully anymore and that she can always rely on you.
What are the current driving regulations for seniors in Pennsylvania?
All Pennsylvania drivers must renew their license every four years, regardless of age, however, seniors may choose to renew at two years or four years. The Pennsylvania Division of Motor Vehicles does not require proof of adequate vision at the time of renewal for either the general population or for drivers over 65 years of age.
In addition to these general rules, Pennsylvania also utilizes a rare program that randomly selects approximately 2,000 drivers over the age of 45 each month to have vision and physical exams. If randomly selected, the state may require the driver to complete any and all vision, physical, written and road tests at the discretion of Department of Transportation authorities.
Pennsylvania also allows drivers of all ages to renew either online or by mail (or in person).
What are the current driving regulations for seniors in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, drivers must also renew their license every four years; the state also gives drivers over 70 years of age to renew at either two years or four years. However, in New Jersey, all drivers, regardless of age, most provide proof of adequate vision every 10 years.
Unlike Pennsylvania, all drivers, regardless of age may only renew by mail or in person.
What does this all mean for senior drivers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey?
While there are recommendations to renew your license more often if you are an elderly senior, there are no special requirements you must follow in order to keep your license at an older age. Consequently, it is evident that senior drivers (or their loved ones) must take the initiative to test their hearing and vision abilities on their own.
As you can see, driving in Pennsylvania and New Jersey can be dangerous for our elderly neighbors. With diminished hearing, eyesight, reaction time, and attention span, our elderly residents in Pennsylvania and New Jersey may be unable to react in time to prevent an accident.
If your elderly loved one sustained serious or fatal injuries in an accident caused by a negligent driver, call a car accident attorney at Cordisco & Saile LLC today.
Our legal team will fight for your loved one’s right to compensation for her accident injuries. We will help file a claim, provide evidence to prove negligence, negotiate with the at-fault driver’s insurer, and even fight for her rights in court, if necessary.