West Virginia ranks among the highest for elderly driver fatalities

A recent study says West Virginia has one of the highest rates of fatal accidents involving older drivers.

A recent study by the transportation research group TRIP shows that deaths and serious accidents involving elderly drivers are rising rapidly across the nation and they are especially high in West Virginia. As WTRF News reports, the Mountain State was among the top 20 states in terms of number of fatal motor vehicle accidents involving a driver aged 65 or older. While the increase in accidents involving older drivers is partly due to a growing elderly population, the fatality rate for elderly drivers is increasing faster than the number of such drivers themselves.

Accidents involving older drivers increase

According to the report, about 22 percent of all accidents that lead to a fatality in West Virginia involve at least one driver who is 65 or older. That is one of the highest rates of elderly-involved fatal accidents in the country.

However, West Virginia is not alone in seeing serious accidents involving older drivers increase. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, the number of older drivers killed in accidents across the United States has soared by 21 percent between 2012 and 2016, from 3,741 to 4,204, despite the fact that the number of older drivers overall has only increased by 16 percent.

Because older drivers are more frail than younger drivers, they are at increased risk of dying or being seriously injured in an accident. That's despite the fact that older drivers tend to be safer drivers overall and are more likely to wear a seat belt and to avoid driving at night or in inclement weather.

Improving road safety for older drivers

Certain factors make driving especially risky for older drivers. Elderly people tend to be more likely to live in rural or suburban areas where public or alternative transportation may be limited. Elderly people in such areas may feel they have no choice but to drive in occasionally adverse conditions or later in life than they are comfortable with. This fact may help explain why West Virginia's elderly driver fatality rate is so high.

There are ways, however, to make driving safer for elderly people. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways is to simply make traffic signs bigger and to increase lighting, especially at intersections. About 37 percent of fatal accidents involving an elderly driver occur at intersections, compared to just 20 percent of fatal accidents involving drivers who are under 65. Improving alternative transportation options, such as public transit, ride hailing service, and rural transportation, could also help elderly people stay safe on the road.

Personal injury law

An accident can be a devastating experience, especially if it leads to serious injury or the death of a loved one. For those who have been involved in an accident, getting legal help as soon as possible is important. A personal injury attorney can never undo the trauma of an accident, but they may be able to help victims pursue whatever compensation they may ultimately be entitled to, which can make the recovery process somewhat easier.