Fatal Oak Lawn multi-car accident caused by 81-year-old driver
An elderly man recently caused a major pileup that led to his death, the deaths of two local nuns and injured nearly two dozen other pedestrians and motorists. The Chicago Tribune reports that the elderly driver was first seen slumped over in his pickup truck in Oak Lawn. After being confronted by a concerned pedestrian, the driver suddenly began speeding down a major street. He struck three cars but failed to stop. When he came to a red light, he made a 180 degree turn and collided with another 11 vehicles. The collisions were so severe, they caused his car to become airborne. His car landed on another vehicle nearby. The 81-year-old driver was pronounced dead at the scene.
The two nuns died as a result of severe injuries they sustained as they were walking home. First responders found victims under cars, thrown from their vehicles and lying in the road. Eleven people were taken to the hospital for treatment, two of which were in critical condition. Another dozen were treated at the scene of the multi-car accident. Investigators have no ideas currently on why the driver acted in such an erratic manner, but they have not ruled out health conditions as a possible cause.
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A problem that cannot be ignored
In a recent study performed by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, researchers found a link between age and fatal car accidents. According to their results, when motorists reach the age of 65, they are more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident. This link between older drivers and accidents continues and increases as people age. When drivers reach 75, they have the same death rates as teenage drivers. At age 85, their fatality rates jump to 4 times the number seen in teenagers.
According to road analysts, the issue of unsafe elderly drivers is only going to escalate as more individuals live to older ages. They believe that older drivers will eventually be responsible for as much as 25 percent of crashes due to their growing population, which is expected to have a 73 percent increase in individuals 85 and older by 2030.
Lack of prevention
States understand that there is an obvious problem, but few have begun implementing any solutions to keep severe accidents from occurring while still remaining fair to all seniors. Some 75-year-olds may be unable to safely drive while other 85-year-olds remain competent and able. Few elderly drivers willingly give up their license because of the freedom it entails, and few states require drivers to appear in person for a license renewal. Even if testing was regularly required, the effects of aging are difficult to objectively test. All of this creates a perfect storm that continues to brew. Until some precautions are made to keep unfit elderly drivers from the streets, these injury accidents will continue to occur and many more lives may be lost.