The danger to old folks who drive or merely RIDE in cars, is beginning
to get more attention:
Auto Makers Retool to Fit an Aging U.S.
(This link is only good for seven days. If you would like the whole
article after August 6th, just ask...I've saved it.)
Deaths of Older Drivers May Double
The number of licensed drivers age 70 or older is expected to increase
more than 60%, to about 31 million, by 2020. In the same period, some
analysts project that deaths among drivers 65 and older will double,
from an estimated 5,232 this year to an estimated 10,363 in 2020. Auto
crashes already are the most common reason, exceeding even falls, for
elderly people to be transported to trauma centers...
...(Dr.) Wang became interested in elderly crash victims because they
were turning up in growing numbers in his intensive care unit at the
University of Michigan hospital. "As a trauma surgeon, I was just seeing
so many of these patients coming in--and they were very challenging to
take care of."...
...Analyzing the cases, they found that drivers and passengers age 60
and older were more than twice as likely to be killed in accidents as
other adults. Even in moderate crashes, the elderly were in greater
danger of being seriously injured or killed...
..."A rib fracture in a younger adult hurts like heck, and you can't
breathe as deeply, but it's not a big deal," Wang said. However, "the
elderly have very little tolerance for setbacks, and things tend to
snowball. They don't have the lung capacity. If they break a couple of
ribs, they can wind up on a ventilator, get pneumonia and end up
...In a 1999 crash in Michigan, an 83-year-old man made a left turn at
an intersection and crashed his 1997 Ford Escort station wagon head-on
into a Chevrolet Cavalier traveling in the opposite direction. The
elderly driver only scraped his right hand in the 20 mph collision.
But his female passenger, a 79-year-old retired auto engineer, was badly
hurt, even though she was wearing her seat belt. She
already suffered from back problems and had been injured in a previous
crash. This time, she broke three ribs, a vertebra in her neck, her left
kneecap and a leg bone below it. Discharged after more than a week in
the hospital, she was soon back with fluid in her lungs.
Her granddaughter took a month off from work to care for her at home,
but family members told doctors that they were troubled by the patient's
"failure to thrive." Two months after the crash, the woman was
complaining of memory loss and her injured knee had become infected.
Augenstein, the Miami doctor, said that a crash does not have to be
catastrophic to cause an older person's world to unravel. "With a little
bit of trauma in the elderly, you can go from being an active,
well-functioning person to being a nonfunctioning person. Once somebody
is disabled in their late 70s and 80s, their ability to return to where
they were before is very poor."