Drivers over 65 receive extra attention

A tragic accident recently took the life of a 73-year-old man, reported the Herald Tribune. Driving a 2006 Corvette, the man pulled away from a stop sign into traffic. The Corvette was struck by a Toyota 4Runner driven by a 64-year-old man who could not stop or swerve in time. This accident is just one of many that involve older drivers across the state.

Safety program for elderly drivers

As the population ages, Florida is paying special attention to the needs of older drivers, passengers and pedestrians. About four years ago, the Florida Department of Transportation began inviting a number of partners to join the Safe Mobility for Life Coalition.

Working through an institute at Florida State University, the organizers have developed a strategic safety plan. The stated goal of the Safe Mobility for Life Coalition is to reduce by five percent per year the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities among the many older users of Florida's roads. At the same time, the coalition wants to promote independence and mobility for aging road users, qualities that enhance the enjoyment of life.

Fewer accidents, more serious

The SMLC has determined that the percentage of Florida drivers aged 65 and over steadily increased from 2006 through 2011. At the beginning of this time period, older drivers comprised 16.8 percent of licensed drivers. In 2011, the proportion had climbed to 19 percent, nearly one in five drivers in the state.

Statistics indicate that overall drivers over 65 were involved in less than their share of motor vehicle accidents. Each year from 2006 through 2011, the percentage of all crashes in which a driver was over 65 was lower than the percentage of all drivers who were over 65. For example, in 2010, 18.7 of all drivers were over 65, but drivers over 65 incurred only 15.7 percent of all crashes.

Disturbingly, accidents involving older drivers appear to be more deadly. In every year, older drivers figured disproportionately in more fatal accidents. Following up on the same example, in 2010 23.3 percent of fatal crashes involved drivers over 65.

Working together

Besides FDOT and FSU, partners involved in the SMLC include the Florida Department of Health, AAA Automobile Club, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, and more than a dozen other agencies and businesses.

The SMLC has already developed a written resource, Florida's Guide for Aging Drivers, and made it widely available. To further its goals, coalition members have formed teams to address a variety of tasks. Some specialize in advocacy and policy; some are working on education and outreach; some are making a point of gathering and analyzing accurate data.

In all age groups, accidents happen, and sometimes a driver's negligence results in injury to others. In these cases, compensation may be available for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. An experienced personal injury attorney can provide advice and go through the necessary steps for a personal injury claim.