The Elderly Driver Dilemma: Balancing Independence and Safety in the Face of Fatal Accidents in Missouri

Missouri is facing a growing challenge with elderly drivers on the road. On one hand, driving allows seniors to maintain their independence and freedom of mobility. However, as people age, their driving skills and abilities often deteriorate, leading to increased risks on the road. Missouri has seen a rise in fatal accidents involving elderly drivers in recent years, prompting questions around how to balance senior independence with public safety.

Independence and Quality of Life

For many seniors, driving represents far more than just getting from point A to point B. The ability to drive allows older adults to take care of errands, keep social engagements, attend religious services, access healthcare, and generally participate in the community. Losing the privilege of driving can lead to social isolation, depression, and reduced quality of life. Driving cessation has been linked to increased rates of long-term care placement as well. Understandably, many elderly individuals strongly wish to retain their licenses and continue driving for as long as safely possible.

Age-Related Limitations and Risks

While independence is important, it is also true that aging takes a toll on skills critical for safe driving. Vision problems like cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration become more common with advanced age. Cognitive functions like attention, judgement, and reaction time often decline. Medical conditions including arthritis, diabetes, and dementia also impact fitness to drive. In Missouri, fatal crash rates start increasing dramatically after age 75. In 2021, 208 people died and 845 were badly injured in crashes with drivers age 65 and over. This demographic represents 21% of licensed Missouri drivers.

Potential Options and Solutions

Missouri must seek solutions that allow seniors to maintain independence through driving, while also preventing unnecessary accidents and fatalities. Potential options include:

  • More frequent license renewals and in-person driving tests for elderly drivers. Vision and cognitive screening could also be incorporated.
  • Better education for seniors, families, and physicians on warning signs that a person may no longer be fit to drive.
  • Expanded access to alternative transportation options, including public transit, ridesharing, and community transport services geared towards seniors.
  • Designing roads, signs, and infrastructure to meet the needs of older drivers. Brighter street lighting, larger road signs, lane markings, and dedicated left turn signals can help.
  • Development of license restrictions that allow seniors to drive in limited circumstances, such as daylight hours only or within a certain distance from home.

Striking the right balance between safety and independence will require input from law enforcement, policy makers, healthcare providers, families, advocacy groups, and seniors themselves. With creative problem solving, Missouri can work to protect senior mobility while keeping its roadways safe.

Have you been involved in an accident with an elderly driver? If so, you may wish to talk to one of our experiended motor vehicle accident lawyers. We have offices in 32 locations and 19 states, including Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina.

Call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597 if you’ve been hurt in an accident. We can help!