Driver Health: An Essential Component of Safe Driving

December 7, 2012

These days most people are aware of certain safety threats on the road, such as drunk driving, distracted driving, and even drowsy driving. Fewer people consider what may be a more fundamental concept - the importance of driver health. As your Panama City personal injury law firm, we understand that long-term or even short-lived illnesses can render someone unsafe behind the wheel.

Investigators Suspect Health Condition Led to Fatal Springfield Crash
WJGH reported this week on an accident that may have stemmed from a driver's medical condition. Shortly before 3 P.M. on Wednesday, a driver in a red truck was travelling south on Transmitter Road near the intersection with East 15th Street. Witnesses report the truck passed through the intersection and proceeded to jump the median. The truck then crashed through a fence marking the Kensinger Mobile Homes lot before slamming into the side of a mobile home. The unidentified driver died at the crash scene. No one else was injured. Investigators suggested that the driver may have suffered from a medical condition that led to the accident.
Medical Conditions & Driver Safety
A range of medical conditions can impact the ability of an individual to safely operate a motor vehicle. NIHSeniorHealth, a resource developed by the National Library of Medicine and National Institute on Aging, provides a useful web page dedicated to the importance of driver health. Importantly, the group notes that health issues can be associated with aging, but it is ultimately health more than numeric age that impacts safe driving. General health issues that can cause driver impairment include problems with vision and/or hearing, reduced reaction time, limited attention span, problems with coordination, and issues affecting strength or flexibility.

The NIH portal also notes a number of specific health conditions that can impair driving ability. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Macular Degeneration - This is just one example of a vision-impairing health condition. Specifically, macular degeneration distorts central vision and decreases visual sharpness making it harder to see signs or even pedestrians and other vehicles.

  • Diabetes - A growing number of Americans suffer from this condition that can cause blood sugar levels to become too high or too low. Uncontrolled diabetes can render a driver tired, dizzy, or confused and can even lead to a seizure of loss of consciousness.

  • Arthritis - Although it isn't always recognized as a driving threat, the swelling and stiffness of joints associated with arthritis can make it hard to grasp or turn the wheel, operate the pedals, and fasten a safety belt.

  • Parkinson's Disease - This condition can cause limbs to shake and also affect balance and movement. Patients may be unable to respond quickly to changing conditions and have difficulty turning the wheel or pressing on the brake.

  • Stroke - A concern that often increases with age, a stroke can impair both mental and physical functioning. A stroke victim may be unable to think clearly and can suffer weakness or paralysis impacting one entire side of the individual's body.

  • Alzheimer's/Dementia - Mental impairments can render a driver confused, making it hard to drive safely or leading to the driver becoming lost or disoriented.

Of course, there are many other health issues that can impact driving ability. Even something as basic as a cold or stomach flu can make it hard for a driver to focus on safety. While health and age are often interrelated, illness can impair drivers of any age. Additionally, many medications can also affect driving ability by leaving a driver sleepy, dizzy, or otherwise compromised.

If you have been injured in an accident caused by another driver's health-related impairment, please call our Panama City accident attorney. Although health conditions can evoke sympathy, it is still your right to recover money damages when you are hurt or lose a loved one in an accident stemming from another driver's actions. You need the money and have a right to compensation, Attorney Pittman can make sure you recover the damages available under Florida law.

See Related Blog Posts:
Driver Health is Key to Safety

News Report Raises Concerns About the Safety of Older Drivers

(Photo by Alex E. Proimos)