While there is a risk with anyone behind the wheel of a car, the probability of a collision increases when an individual is distracted or has some sort of impairment. As we age, our Texas auto accident lawyer explains, we are more likely to have physical and mental struggles, which include being able to drive safely.
Accidents with older drivers are not uncommon, with reasons ranging from medication use to slower reaction times. If you are involved in an accident with a senior driver, it is important to know what to do and how to work with a personal injury attorney to protect yourself.
Potential Dangers of Older Drivers in Texas
When it comes to car accidents, the two most at-risk groups tend to be teenagers and elderly drivers. There are a few reasons why elderly drivers, in particular, are a danger on the road. These include:
- Medication. An older person might be on medication for a variety of physical ailments. Some of these drugs might interfere with safe driving. Medication can cause drowsiness or dizziness, both of which impair driving skills.
- Medical conditions. Older people tend to have more medical conditions than their younger counterparts. Some of these conditions—including poor vision or hearing loss, arthritis, brain fog, joint pain, or weak muscles—can interfere with safe driving. These conditions can affect driving by making it hard to grasp objects or perhaps limiting their range of motion.
- Slower reaction times. When a person ages, their natural reflexes and reaction times decrease. The slower you react to imminent danger like a speeding car or a changed light, the higher the risk of being in an accident.
Warning Signs of Dangerous Drivers
Of course, not all elderly drivers are unfit to drive. In fact, many people still drive safely well into their 80s or even 90s. While a large percentage of older drivers are fine to be out on the road, there are some warning signs to look for that will determine whether an individual might no longer be a good defensive driver. These include:
- Memory problems
- Vehicle damage, including dents and scratches on their car exterior
- Being involved in frequent fender benders or “close calls”
- Speeding or driving too slowly
- Drifting into another lane
- Confiding in a friend or family member that they are concerned about their ability to drive
If you observe any of these in a friend or loved one, or if you are out on the road and notice these behaviors from a driver in another vehicle, pay attention! It might save your life or theirs.
Texas License Renewals for Older Drivers
In the state of Texas, special rules apply to elderly drivers. These rules aim to keep everyone safe on the road and eliminate the risk of older drivers who are no longer physically able to stay safe on the road. In Texas, everyone under the age of 78 is required to renew their license every eight years. These license renewals may be done online, via phone, by mail, or in person at the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). After age 78, the rules change.
People between the ages of 79 and 84 must renew their license every six years and can only do this in person. Those who are aged 85 and older must renew every two years. At the in-person renewal, individuals aged 79 and older will need to complete the following:
- Vision test. A vision test will be conducted at the in-person renewal and must show that the driver’s eyesight is better than 20/70 with or without corrective lenses. If they don’t pass the vision test, the driver will be required to complete an outside optometry examination and get a special form filled out prior to getting their license renewed.
- Knowledge test. If DPS believes it necessary, the driver applying for a license renewal may need to complete a written test similar to that of someone getting their learner’s permit. They must prove basic knowledge of road rules and driving skills.
- Road test. If a DPS employee has concerns about the older individual’s ability to safely drive, he/she may require a behind-the-wheel test similar to that of someone getting their license for the first time.
While going through these steps for license renewal can be frustrating and even embarrassing for the older driver, it is structured as such to keep everyone safe. The DPS can also place restrictions on an issued license, including:
- No freeway driving
- Only driving with an accompanied licensed driver in the front seat
- Daytime only driving
- Speed restrictions
- Driving a car equipped with special accommodations
What to Do After an Accident with an Older Driver
If you find yourself in a collision with an older driver, it can be an overwhelming experience. Not only could you be injured and your car totaled, but most of us also feel great concern and compassion for the elderly person in the other vehicle. Nonetheless, there are necessary steps to be taken. These include:
- Calling 911. Even after you have checked in with your passengers and anyone in the other car(s) involved, it is still important to call 911 and get medical care on the scene
- Taking photos. Be sure to take photos of any damage to your car, their car, or any other involved vehicles. You might also want to take photos of any debris in the roadway or damage to any poles, signs, curbs, etc.
- Gather witness information. If someone saw the accident occur, exchange contact info with them and ask them to record a statement for you
- Exchange insurance information with the older driver.
- Contact a lawyer.
While this last step might seem extreme, it is important to work with a lawyer, even for a car accident that seems minor. Car accident injuries can be silent, causing you pain and suffering in the days, weeks, or even months following the collision. Working with an attorney right from the start ensures you have the protection you need to win your case.
Working With a Personal Injury Attorney
A person is not automatically at fault for a car accident just because they are elderly. You will need to work with a lawyer to prove liability. Was the other driver negligent? Did the accident cause your injuries? A qualified accident attorney can help you prove this.
Some of what you might recover from a car accident case involving an elderly driver include:
- The cost of past and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Out-of-pocket costs for car repair
- Pain and suffering
SJ Injury Attorneys is ready and available to help. Give us a call at 281-688-6880 for a free consultation.