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The dangers of elderly drivers

Driving requires profound concentration, good eyesight and quick reflexes. As people age, however, one’s ability to pay complete attention to the road declines somewhat. In some cases, people are no longer able to stop quickly for emergency situations, such as bad weather conditions, reckless drivers, objects in the road and other hazards.

In 2015, there were more than 40 million drivers over the age of 65 who were licensed to drive in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The problem lies in the fact that more than 236,000 elderly people were treated in emergency rooms and over 5,700 people died in car accidents in 2014. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that drivers over the age of 65 are twice as likely to be killed in car accidents than drivers who are 55 to 64 years old.

Elderly drivers are often unable to adjust their vision to see other vehicles, read traffic signs and perceive the depth and speed of oncoming vehicles. Older drivers also experience a decline in cognitive functioning, such a memory, attention and the ability to make quick decisions. Motor function also changes, as people age, affecting muscle strength and flexibility needed to operate a car. In a traffic accident, elderly people are likely to be injured simply because they are more fragile, weak and brittle-boned.

Many states have enacted policies to limit the amount of driving elderly motorists are able to engage in. Not only is this aimed at protecting the elderly population, but everyone else that shares the road with these seasoned drivers. 

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