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Are older drivers a danger on the highway?

Driving abilities decline as we age, but age alone does not mean that senior citizens must turn in their driver's licenses. Some seniors enjoy remarkably good health well into their 80's and are capable of driving.

But when infirmities make driving unsafe, it's time to re-evaluate. Learning how the aging process affects driving abilities is vital.

As people age, their hearing, vision and motor skills diminish over time. Certain chronic diseases can exacerbate the problems. The impact can be deadly.

Below are some ways that aging can negatively affect the responses and driving safety of some senior citizens.

-- Stiff knees and painful legs can lengthen the time it takes to move the foot from the gas pedal to the brake.

-- Rigidity in the neck area makes it difficult to glance over the shoulder when merging and changing lanes.

-- Diminished reaction times can cause drivers not to see cars backing out of driveways, pedestrians crossing the street and traffic that has stopped ahead.

-- The multi-tasking necessary to interpret road signs and pay attention to weather conditions and traffic patterns can be overwhelming to some older drivers.

-- Decreased strength in the arms and wrists can make it hard to maneuver the steering wheel quickly in an emergency.

Senior citizens can preserve their independence yet remain safe behind the wheel by self-imposing limitations on their driving. Traveling only during daylight hours, staying off of multi-lane interstates and only driving to familiar locations near home are good suggestions.

Realizing certain driving limitations can keep seniors driving longer, but for those who may have been hurt in an accident caused by an at-fault older driver, it is a small consolation. Those who suffered injuries may decide to pursue legal action against the driver.

It can be difficult for a layperson to make a claim for all of the damages to which they are entitled after a collision. Personal injury attorneys know how to pursue defendants and their insurance carriers and make sure that they pay out the policy limits on personal injury claims.

Source: helpguide.org, "Age and Driving," accessed Sep. 09, 2015

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