Elderly driver deaths on the rise in Missouri, report says

11 months 4 days 5 hours ago April 23, 2016 Apr 23, 2016 Saturday, April 23 2016 Saturday, April 23, 2016 8:03:00 PM CDT in News
By: Max Diekneite, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA — Elderly driver crash fatalities are on the rise in Missouri, according to a recently released report by the Missouri Department of Transportation, and a rising elderly population projects the number to continue to grow.

Earlier this month, MoDOT released the "Vulnerable Roadway Users" report, which is part of a larger driver-safety initiative. According to the report, "the term Vulnerable Roadway Users includes individuals who are at high risk for death or serious injury when involved in a motor-vehicle-related crash." 

The report outlines three main categories of vulnerable roadway users: 

  • Older Drivers (65 years of age or older)
  • Pedestrians
  • Bicyclists

According to the report, 459 elderly drivers died in car crashes from 2012-2015, and 2,670 more suffered serious injuries. Elderly drivers lead both categories by a wide margin over pedestrians, who accounted for 230 deaths and 757 fatalities during the same time period. 

One local elderly driving instructor said the spike in fatalities makes sense. 

"Our bodies just aren't designed to go more than ten miles an hour, and a 20-year-old that is quickly stopped at 20 or 30 miles an hour, sometimes it's not a big deal. But for an 80-year-old, their bones are more frail," said Robert McEllingott, an AARP elderly driver course instructor based in Fulton. 

According to the report, the number of Missourians aged 65 or over is projected to grow exponentially during the next 13 years, bringing the total number of older adults to an estimated 1.4 million. This represents an 87% increase in older adults since the year 2000. 

Of the 459 elderly driver fatalities, 42 percent weren't wearing a seatbelt. The report outlines key strategies to combat the rising number of deaths, including enhancing the process of reporting potentially medically impaired older drivers.  

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