On July 24, 2020, around 3:15 in the afternoon, two vehicles collided between White Marsh and Middle River in the 5800 block of Ebenezer Road near Meyers Lane. According to initial reports from the Baltimore County Police Department, a vehicle crashed into another vehicle and then hit a utility pole. A witness of the crash claims that she saw the driver lose control of the car before hitting the other car and the utility pole.

The witness said that it appeared that the driver was trying to stop and she looked scared. The witness called 911 from Richardson Farms, where the witness works. 

Additional information released by the police revealed that a 2013 Buick Lacrosse driven by 84-year-old Shirley Ellsworth left the road, struck a 2012 Chevrolet Malibu, and then hit an electric pole. Ms. Ellsworth and her passenger, 83-year-old Leona Schleicher, were pronounced dead at the accident scene.

Another passenger in the car with Ms. Ellsworth and Ms. Schleicher was transported to the hospital. He was in stable condition at the time of the report. 

The 2012 Chevrolet Malibu was parked and unoccupied at the time of the car accident. The Baltimore County Police Department is still investigating the cause of the accident. If anyone has information about the accident, they are asked to contact the police department. 

Was Age a Factor in the Accident?

Until the police conclude their investigation, the cause of the car accident is unknown. Unless the passenger who survived the accident can shed more light on the moments leading up to the crash, the cause of the crash may never be known.

However, age is a factor in many car accidents. The natural progression of age can result in impairments that affect our ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Health conditions and medications can also impact an older person’s ability to drive.

During 2017, roughly 7,700 adults 65 years and older died in motor vehicle crashes. More than 257,000 older adults received treatment for traffic accident injuries in emergency rooms. Drivers 70 years of age and older have higher crash rates than middle-aged drivers.

Factors that Increase a Senior’s Risk for a Car Accident

According to the National Institute on Aging, changes in health and other factors can affect driving skills for seniors. Some of the common concerns that impact a senior’s driving ability include:

Physical Changes in Muscles and Joints

Many physical changes occur as we age. For example, our joints and muscles become stiffer and weaken. Arthritis can make the condition worse.

It can be difficult for a senior driver to move quickly to respond to an emergency. Pain can also cause distractions while driving, thereby increasing the risk of an accident.

Vision and Hearing Changes

Reduced vision and hearing ability also can be a factor in a senior driving accident. Senior drivers may not be able to see the road as clearly, especially when driving at night, dawn, or dusk. Eye diseases that often develop in senior years can also impair driving ability, such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma.

Reduced hearing can prevent a senior driving from hearing a horn or warning signal in time to avoid an accident. It can also make it difficult to hear sirens from approaching emergency vehicles. 

Medications

Some medications have side effects that can make it dangerous to operate a motor vehicle. Seniors often take medication to treat a variety of conditions. Senior drivers must understand the potential side effects of all medications and take steps to avoid driving if the medication affects driving abilities.

Reduction in Reflexes and Reaction Time

It is a natural progression of aging. Our reaction time and reflexes slow down. However, this can make driving more dangerous. 

Drivers must be able to react quickly. Combined with weaker muscles and joints, reduced reflexes can increase the risk of a car crash.

Reduced Mental Capacity

Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other brain disorders affect decision-making and memory skills. These diseases are challenging to deal with because the progression can be very slow. However, the impact on driving ability can be deadly.

If a senior forgets traffic rules or becomes disoriented while driving, the chance of being in an accident increase. Family members must carefully monitor their loved ones for signs of decreased mental capacity. Taking the car keys from a senior driver is difficult, but it could save lives.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration created a Resource Guide for Aging Drivers. The guide is available from the Maryland MVA or online. In the guide, senior drivers can take a self-assessment and learn tips for safe driving.