A car accident is a scary life-altering experience for anyone and even a minor fender bender can leave you shaken. Sadly, approximately 40,000 people are killed in the United States each year as a result of car accidents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drivers age 70-74 are more likely to die in a car accident and not because of their driving abilities, but because they are more susceptible to injury and medical complications as a result of a crash.
Seniors are safe drivers, but more likely to die in a crash
After teens and young adults (ages 15-24), seniors age 65 and older are the highest risk age group to die in a car crash. Older drivers follow safe driving habits and are safe drivers compared to other age groups-they are more likely to wear a seat belt, follow speed limits and avoid distracted or impaired driving. But despite these safe driving habits, seniors are more vulnerable to car accident fatalities. With aging bodies and brittle bones, they have a higher death rate after a car crash because they are more susceptible to injury and don't recover as well afterward.
Chest injury most common
A study co-authored by a University of Virginia professor studied the characteristics of older-driver car accidents and found that where a younger driver is more likely to die from a head injury in a car crash, a senior is most likely to suffer a fatal chest injury as a result of a car accident.
Also, more than other age groups, seniors are more likely to die after the crash because of frailty or other underlying health problems. Conditions such as heart disease or diabetes contributed to longer recovery times, additional medical complications from the initial crash and death.
Among other things, this research recommends changes to roadway design (for example, road design to prevent a driver from pulling into traffic without the right of way), enhanced roadway signage, enhanced vehicle controls and additional active safety systems in vehicles. They also recommend seatbelts that limit the active force on a driver's body.
To stay safe on the roadways and avoid accidents, there are steps seniors can follow:
- Always use a seat belt.
- Drive when conditions are favorable and during daylight hours.
- Stay active to increase strength and flexibility, which ultimately increases your health and driving abilities.
- Find and follow the safest route with well-lit and marked streets.
- Avoid distractions in your car.
- Consider alternate forms of transportation such as ride sharing or public transit.
With the dangers car accidents pose, we should all do what we can to avoid being involved in one. Being proactive and making safe driving choices will help to eliminate and reduce car accidents and the resulting health issues associated with them.