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Elderly Car Accidents

Posted in Car accident on January 31, 2020

There comes a time when many drivers can no longer safely or prudently operate motor vehicles. Natural declines in sight, hearing, motor skills, reaction times and other important skills due to aging can force a senior driver to hang up his or her keys. Unfortunately, some senior drivers are in denial about their inabilities to safely control their vehicles. It can be difficult to convince an older driver to retire from behind the wheel, as it can be a main source of independence. Dangerous elderly drivers, however, can lead to serious and fatal auto accidents in West Virginia.

What Percentage of Car Accidents Do Older Drivers Cause?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that almost 44 million drivers in the U.S. are 65 years old and older as of 2017. The same year, close to 7,700 senior citizens lost their lives in traffic accidents. Another 257,000 had to go to emergency rooms for accident-related injuries. Drivers over the age of 75 have higher crash fatality rates than middle-aged drivers. In 2015, victims over the age of 65 made up 18% of all traffic fatalities and 10% of all injuries. Senior citizens may suffer injuries and die in auto accidents more often than other populations due to frequently causing these car accidents, as well as higher vulnerability to critical injuries.

The Dangers of Elderly Drivers

It takes a certain skill set to be able to operate a motor vehicle safely and according to state traffic laws. A driver must have the physical capacity to see what is happening on the road, react to changes within a reasonable time, and use vehicle mechanisms such as pedals and the steering wheel. A driver must also have the mental capacity to understand roadway rules, signs, traffic lights and rights-of-way. Many common health issues in older age could interfere with a person’s abilities to drive.

  • Vision problems, including cataracts or glaucoma
  • Brain fog or cognitive challenges
  • Dementia or Alzheimer’s
  • Memory loss
  • Slower reflexes
  • Muscle weakness or arthritis
  • Lack of mobility
  • Driving under the influence of prescription medications
  • Fatigued or drowsy driving
  • Health complications while driving

Injuries and illnesses can increase the odds of an elderly person being unable to drive safely. A back injury, for example, can make it difficult for a senior to sit in the car for long periods. If an elderly driver that should not be behind the wheel causes a car accident, his or her insurance company will have to pay for damages. West Virginia is a fault state, assigning liability for auto accidents to the party that caused the collision.

Can I Be Held Liable for an Elderly Parent’s Car Accident?

For the most part, an insurance company or judge cannot hold you liable if your elderly parent causes a car accident in West Virginia. Instead, the elderly parent’s insurance company will pay for damages, just as it would if another driver caused a crash. However, exceptions to the rule may apply to your case. If you had a special responsibility to keep your parent off the road, for example, such as knowing about his or her propensity to cause a crash, a victim may be able to hold you accountable if you failed to do so.

You may also be liable if you let your elderly parent drive your vehicle. If the accident occurred in a vehicle owned, leased or rented in your name, you could be vicariously liable for the damages – especially if you were already aware of your parent’s declining driving abilities. Your auto insurance company may have to offer a settlement for the victim’s damages, resulting in higher insurance premiums for you. Take your parent to periodic health, vision and hearing checkups to monitor his or her driving capabilities. Talk to your elderly parent about retiring from driving when you notice his or her faculties declining. Otherwise, you or your parent could end up responsible for a serious car accident.