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ELDERLY DRIVERS – HOW OLD IS TOO OLD?

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Over the weekend police were called to yet another injury traffic collision. A Honda Accord broadsided a GMC Yukon, leaving the driver of the Accord in critical condition. The police indicated that it appeared neither alcohol nor drugs played a part in the accident. What could have caused this near fatal accident? Could it have been age? You see, the driver of the Accord is 87 years old.

Driving is a privilege, not a right. As our population ages we will need more stringent testing of older drivers for not only their sight, but actual ability to drive. At some age, maybe 70, a driver’s license renewal should include a sight test as well as an actual driving test, like when we first get a license. It isn’t good enough to wait for an accident or a plethora of tickets.

Consider some of the more recent events linked to the driver’s age:

• Ten people died and countless others injured in 2003 when 86-year-old George Russell Weller lost control of his car and plowed through the Santa Monica Farmers Market in California. Weller told offices he might have stepped on the gas rather instead of the brake.
• One woman’s license wasn’t up for renewal until 2006, and she would have turned 100 in September 2005. That is if she hadn’t been killed after driving the wrong way on a Wisconsin interstate hitting a truck head-on.
• In a Florida case, in 2003, a man in his early 70’s drove into booths at a farmer’s market injuring 6 persons.
• In a deposition I took in an automobile accident case, I asked the 70+ year old defendant driver if he saw my client’s car before he pulled out in front of her. The defendant’s wife blurred out, “It wasn’t his fault, it was mine! Don’t blame him. He can’t see and I can’t drive. So I watch and tell him where to go and he drives. I didn’t see the car. I told him to pull out. It was my fault.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), older drivers are more likely than their younger counterparts to be involved in traffic accidents. Further, older drivers are more likely to be killed in traffic accident, given the same driving conditions.
Boomers will begin turning 65 in 2011, and by 2030, one out of five drivers will be 65 or older — up from one in eight drivers today, studies predict.

So, at what age do we need mandatory testing for seniors’ eye sight and driving ability in order for them to renew their driving license? I know the day will come when I’ll hope there is no test that I have to pass to keep my license.

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