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Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Posted on April 13, 2017 0

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Seniors Also at Risk for Distracted Driving

April is National Distracted Driving Month. When it comes to distracted driving the image that many of us have is that of a teenager texting on their phone. But elderly drivers can also fall victim to distracted driving, and, in fact, may be at even greater risk than their younger counterparts.

The fact is that while teens are one of the two groups most susceptible to the risks of distracted driving, the second largest group is older adults. Even though seniors tend to practice safe driving by using seatbelts and staying within the speed limit, cognitive decline may make older drivers at greater risk of distracted driving.

“Additional distractions, such as cell phones, can further compete for the limited neural resources necessary for safe driving,” wrote researchers in “Distracted Driving in Elderly and Middle-Aged Drivers” (2013). “Drivers with mind and brain aging may be particularly susceptible to distraction due to waning cognitive resources and control over attention.”

Distracted.jpgAdding to the risk is hearing loss, which may cause an older person to struggle to hear and understand what is being said, rather than concentrating on the road. Vision issues can also cause an older driver to become distracted. Medications - especially those that cause fatigue - may also have an effect. And all of the new digital features on today’s cars can, in and of themselves, be a distraction, particularly with people who are less familiar with them.

According to AARP, with the exception of teen drivers, seniors have the highest crash death rate per mile driven, even though they drive fewer miles than younger people.  And when an accident does happen, their advanced years and frailty can lead to more severe outcomes.

Some 10% of fatal traffic accidents are a result of distracted driving. While it’s true that texting creates a major risk for fatal car accidents, the truth is that distracted driving is much more than that. A 2013 study by a Pennsylvania insurance company revealed the Top 10 causes of distracted driving – and the results may surprise you:

  1. Generally distracted or “lost in thought” – 62%. Have you ever driven a distance and not remember driving it because you were “lost in thought?” Daydreaming is the biggest cause of distracted driving.
  2. Cellphone use – 12%. No surprise here: Talking, listening, dialing, texting – Use of a mobile phone while driving is the number 2 cause of distracted driving. And “hands-free” use of a phone is not “risk-free.”
  3. Outside person, object or event – 7%. Gawking at an accident on the highway – or rubbernecking – turns out to be more dangerous that passengers when it comes to distracted driving.
  4. Other occupants – 5%.Having a conversation with – and looking at the person as you talk with them – is the fourth biggest reason for distracted driving.
  5. Using or reaching for a device brought into the car – 2%.Forget using a device - just reaching for one can cause an accident.
  6. Eating or drinking – 2%.Eating or drinking while driving distracts your thoughts from the task at hand.
  7. Adjusting audio or climate controls – 2%.Too cold? Too hot? Music too low? Too loud? Making adjustments to climate controls or the radio can distract the driver from the road ahead.
  8. Using devices/controls to operate the vehicle – 1%.As with audio controls or climate controls, fiddling with mirrors, navigation systems, seats, or seat belts break your concentration.
  9. Moving objects – 1%.Insects and pets can cause you to take your eyes off the road.
  10. Smoking related – 1%.Smoking, lighting up, putting out a cigarette – they all can distract your attention, even if for only a short time.

As cell phones become more prevalent – especially with the Baby Boomer generation - they will become an increased risk for older drivers.

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What you can do

The number of drivers in the U.S. 65 and older is growing: By 2030, it’s estimated that one in 5 drivers will be 65+. In 2014, 16 older adults were killed and 648 injured in crashes on average every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control, by being aware of the risks and taking steps to lessen them, seniors can help make those numbers go down.

Here are a few things seniors can do to help keep themselves and their passengers safer when traveling:

  • See your doctor regularly and get your vision and hearing checked;
  • Be sure to wear your glasses, if prescribed, and make sure the prescription is current;
  • Ask your doctor if any of your medications may be causing decreased cognitive function;
  • Watch the road and not your passenger;
  • Don’t answer or make calls and don’t text while driving;
  • Be familiar with all of your car’s controls and gadgets;
  • Refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking ;
  • If you use a GPS, make sure your destination is set before you drive away.
  • If you are experiencing personal problems, or are having trouble concentration, ask someone else to drive.
  • Understand that you may not be as agile as you used to be. Keep your driving skills sharp and look into resourced such as the AARP Driver Safety program, or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s “Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully” pages.

At Courville Communities, we have built our success on being the place for families to turn to when it’s time to consider alternative options for a healthier, safer, and less-isolated living arrangement. Reach out to us to get a tour of our facilities or for more information!

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Tags: Driving, Safe driver, Safety

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The Courville Communities has built its success on being the place for families to turn to when it’s time to consider alternative options for a healthier, safer, and less-isolated living arrangement.

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