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Why older drivers who switch to walking are still at risk

Many older drivers hang up the car keys because they are at higher risk of getting seriously injured in car accidents or causing accidents themselves. For instance, their bones are more fragile, and they take longer to recover from injuries. At the same time, delayed reaction times and limited movement can mean that an older driver might be an increased danger. Thus, many senior citizens switch to walking, public transportation, ride shares and other methods to get around.

These are great alternatives. Walking provides exercise, stress relief and an opportunity to socialize. It also helps with independence. At the same time, many of the risks that older drivers have do not magically go away when they walk.

Visibility, reaction times, speed

Older pedestrians may not be able to see as clearly as their younger counterparts, nor react or move as quickly. Thus, they are at higher risk if they walk through a crosswalk and a speeding or distracted driver approaches. The same idea applies if a car is about to jump the curb--an older walker might not be able to get out of the way.

This does not mean the older pedestrians are at fault. All types of people walk, including children, people with disabilities and people who are elderly. Regardless of health, age or disability status at the time of an accident, the fault still rests with the driver for not paying attention, for driving distracted or for doing whatever caused the accident.

Proactive steps help

Elderly pedestrians can help themselves stay safe by taking measures such as walking during times of less traffic, rerouting their walk to places where there is less traffic, enhancing their visibility, walking only when there is good daylight and avoiding cellphone use and other distractions when they walk. However, if they fail to take such measures, that does not necessarily mean they are at fault in an accident. 

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