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Elderly Drivers in Boston Pose Risks on the Road

Recently, an elderly driver in Boston reportedly lost control of his vehicle, reversed through a drug store parking lot, barreled backward through two lanes of traffic, plowed through a guardrail and then careened into a real-estate building.

Miraculously, no one - not even the driver - was seriously injured.

Boston car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone highlight this case because it's important to kick-start the discussion of elderly driver safety. It raises questions of how old is too old, what measures can be taken to bolster safety among older motorists and how do we balance these folks' independence with the safety of others on the road.

Generally speaking, older drivers are safer than novice drivers. When it comes to motor vehicle traffic fatality rates, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association reports that between 2002 and 2011, the group with the highest percentage per population of 100,000 were by far 16- to 20-year-old drivers. After that, it was 21- to 34-year-olds. Drivers aged 65 and older ranked third.

Even still, the older population traffic fatality rate steadily fell during that period, from 18.8 per 100,000 in 2002 to 13 per 100,000 in 2011. That is despite the fact that there are more elderly drivers than ever on the road.

The Challenges Facing the Older Driver

Yet there is no question that older drivers face a host of expanding challenges behind the wheel. Eroding vision, degraded hearing and slower reaction times are simply the result of the aging process. Additionally, those in the early stages of dementia may also be at higher risk for a crash.

It's expected with the aging of the baby boom generation that there will be more elderly drivers than ever within the next 10 to 15 years.  Currently, there are 35 million licensed drivers in this country over the age of 65. That's an increase of 21 percent since 2002. We need to be prepared for further growth of this subset.

As part of this effort, the AARP recently unveiled a new driving refresher course for older motorists. The "smart driver" class is geared toward drivers age 50 and older. Taught by certified volunteer instructors, it's available in all 50 states, and a version of it will soon be available online.

The course is tailored to address certain aspects of roadway safety that frequently trip up older drivers. Those include roundabouts, stop-sign compliance, pavement markings, and other safety issues such as seat belt, turn signal use and speeding.

Additionally, instructors open a discussion about how medications, alcohol, health issues and general aging can affect a person's ability to drive. But the course is not about depriving older people of their driving privileges. Rather, it's about helping them adjust their driving habits accordingly.

For example, it may be best to limit nighttime driving or to avoid going out in inclement weather. Instructors also discuss how to determine when driving should no longer be an option, and how to plan for that accordingly.

The course is available in English and Spanish and teachers are equipped with full-color, large-print worksheet materials and supplemental course videos.

If you have been injured in a Boston car accident, call 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 or visit www.marksalomone.com for a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone.