The Dangers (and Potential Liability) of Driving While Old

Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “If I am injured in a car accident or at work what should I do?”


A recent article on made the argument that, in addition to DWI and DUI, there should be another three-letter acronym describing another category of dangerous car accidents: DWO, Driving While Old. As millions of Baby Boomers age, car accidents caused by older drivers may occur with greater frequency, something experts believe could result in interesting legal cases arguing over liability to injured third parties. To find out more about the dangers of driving while old, keep reading.


Holding Steering wheel Charlotte Injury Lawyer Mecklenburg Car Accident AttorneyTo start, we should make clear that not all older drivers are dangerous. Some are perfectly sharp and manage to drive safely for years without a single incident. Additionally, old age is a spectrum rather than a bright line and it can be difficult for most people to know when they’ve crossed the line into dangerous territory. As a result, it’s impossible to draw hard and fast rules about who should and who should not be driving, it depends on the particular circumstances of each driver.


The problem with older drivers is that many experience problems that directly impact their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. For instance, many older drivers report vision problems, especially at night. Others report declines in their peripheral vision or problems hearing. Reaction times may be slowed and dementia can lead to confusion behind the wheel. All these issues add up to create a potentially dangerous problem, especially when you consider that, as of 2013, there were 23.6 million drivers on the road age 70 and above, a number that will continue to grow going forward.


The cautionary tale of dangerous older drivers is that of George Weller. Weller, then 89, was out for a weekend drive in Santa Monica when he ended up crashing through a crowded farmer’s market. The incident resulted in 10 people dying and 63 people being injured. Weller said after the accident that he had confused the brake pedal and the accelerator, a simple mistake that had tragic consequences.


The question that some legal experts have is whether others, specifically doctors, could eventually be held liable for the actions of older drivers. In one case out of California, an 85-year-old woman who had been treated for years by her doctor for dementia drove her vehicle into oncoming traffic. Though she survived, her 90-year-old passenger died and his family sued the treating physician, arguing that the doctor should have taken steps to have the woman’s driver’s license revoked. Though this case was decided in the doctor’s favor, some wonder if things may be changing.


One case that might be seen as leaning the other way was recently decided by the New York Court of Appeals and resulted in the finding of liability by a doctor to a non-patient third party. Though the case, Davis v. South Nassau Community Hospital, never deals with the patient’s age, the ruling could be used to apply to cases with older drivers. In Davis, the doctor administered a muscle relaxer and an opioid narcotic to a patient in the ER without properly warning the patient of the impairment these drugs would create. The patient left the ER and crossed into oncoming traffic, resulting in serious injuries to a third party. The third party sued the doctor and the court upheld the ruling, saying the doctor failed to take appropriate action. Whether this case could be expanded to apply to the actions of older patients remains to be seen, but you can bet it’s a strategy that will be tried.


If you are injured contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled to.  Feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.


About the Author

Matt Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.






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