The Special Challenges of Elderly Drivers on the Road in North Carolina

The U.S. population is changing—and the mix of drivers on U.S. roads and North Carolina highways is changing, too. Now that the “Baby Boom” of people born between 1946 and 1966 has begun to retire, America is facing a surge in the numbers of older citizens. What does this mean for North Carolina road safety?

A mixed record

Demographers—scientists who study population trends—say that the aging of America may indicate a mixed record for the future. Older drivers have often accumulated decades of experience behind the wheel, and that affords them great skill in anticipating (and avoiding) dangerous situations. Additionally, older drivers recognize the limits of their abilities; an older driver who has difficulty driving at night has the good sense to avoid nighttime driving situations.

At the same time, most of us have heard news reports and anecdotes about befuddled older drivers who end up facing the wrong way into oncoming traffic. To our parents and grandparents, car keys represent freedom and self-sufficiency, and they often overlook their declining safety record in order to keep driving.

Yes, older drivers often face declining skills

It is important not to stereotype older North Carolina drivers. Because of our improved ability to maintain health, many people in their 70s today are far more vigorous and alert than their parents were in their 50s. Nevertheless, medical research consistently shows that old age is a time when health can decline quickly. These normal aging processes can erode driving skills and lead to a serious North Carolina traffic crash.

Among the reasons older people suffer diminished driving skills are the following:

  • Poorer vision and hearing
  • Slower reaction time
  • Difficulty focusing attention on the task of driving for an extended period
  • The use of prescription medications that can cause drowsiness
  • Overconfidence in the ability to drive
  • Lapses in memory
  • Confusion and poor judgment

Older drivers and legal liability

If you were injured in a New Hanover County car crash caused by an unsafe older driver, you may have rights to seek a financial recovery. Talk with a knowledgeable Wilmington accident attorney by calling Speaks Law Firm at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233. Call today to receive a complimentary consultation and FREE copy of our book, The North Carolina Auto Injury Book.

R. Clarke Speaks
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Trial Lawyer and Founder of Speaks Law Firm, P.C.