Require Elderly Drivers to Take Test After 65
Embry Riddle Aeronautical University?
The numbers of elderly drivers are increasing in the United States. The statistics show that in the next 20 years, the number of elderly drivers is predicted to triple and they are likely to be involved in fatal accidents than those in their teens or early 20s. Many seniors age 65 and older continue to drive when it’s no longer safe for them to drive. Only few states require mandatory retesting during license renewal of those pass a certain age. Age is not the main reason to stop people from driving, but certain health and age-related problems that can greatly affect and impair their driving skill are good reasons to retest the elderly drivers. Road safety and protective factors may help improve older drivers’ safety, but a mandatory retesting every two years for elderly drivers 65 and older will determine if they are still physically and mentally fit to continue to drive.
“Jodie Guthrie, 30, was just two weeks away from her due date when she was hit while sitting outside a Rite Aid in broad daylight Wednesday by an 88-year-old driver, who hit the gas instead of the brake while maneuvering the vehicle, police said” (Godstein, 2014). The mother died, and the baby was fighting for its life. In another incident, ” in Santa Monica Calif., in 2003, an 89-year old driver killed ten people and injured 70 when he plowed through a crowded farmers market at 60 mph” (Von Fremd, 2011). Tragedies such as these should sound an alarm to legislators and the public that individuals of advanced age can pose a grave danger to themselves, other drivers and pedestrians. Little attention has been given to the rising issue of accidents caused by elderly drivers. With the growing number of older drivers, it is essential that laws and regulations are in place requiring older drivers to take a test every two years after the age of 65 to ensure their competence and fitness in driving.
The number of people ages 65 and older in the United States has increased steadily since the 1960s but is projected to more than double from 46 million today to more than 98 million by 2060. Between 2020 and 2030 alone, the number of older persons is expected to increase by almost 18 million as the last of the large baby boom cohorts reaches age 65 (Mather M., Jacobsen, L.A. and Pollard K.M., 2015). According to TRIP (2018), a nonprofit organization that researches, evaluates and distributes economic and technical data on surface transportation issues, “the number of older drivers killed or involved in fatal crashes has increased significantly in the last five years, partly due to the increasing number of older drivers and the larger share of drivers who are 65 and older.”
The effects of aging have a significant impact on the ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Many factors affect the driving performance of older drivers. Factors more common with age are cognitive, visual, and muscle disorders. Traffic accidents involving older people are attributed to their difficulty in evaluating situations, difficulty judging, executing simultaneous tasks, and reduction in good vision and hearing. Medical conditions also contribute to older people less able to drive safely. Medical research shows that, as people age, their physical condition decline and their driving ability becomes impaired. Disorders common in older people include dementia, epilepsy, high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, glaucoma, cataracts, and hearing loss. Many older people also take medication which can have side effects and can interfere with their driving.
Legislatures are reluctant to restrict driver’s licenses for older drivers or impose extra requirements for having their licenses renewed solely due to their age. This is because the risk older drivers pose to overall traffic safety is much lower than other drivers because they drive comparatively little, even though they are likelier to cause an accident when they do drive. Such results offer little support for stricter state policies (Loughran, Seabury and Zakaras, 2007). Teen drivers are nearly three times more likely than older drivers to be in a fatal crash because of their lack of experience, immaturity, and lack of good judgment. State legislators in 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) law as a response to the problem of fatal teen crashes. The GDL law reduced this risk by making sure teens gradually build up driving experience under lower-risk conditions as they mature and develop skills (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016).
With the failure of imposing restrictions of driver’s license for elder drivers, other steps to help elder drivers stay safe on the road such as the refresher classes that teaches strategies for reducing the chance of a crash and making adjustments to compensate for the effects of age on driving can be taken. Steps that can prevent elder drivers getting into accidents include: providing safer roads by making simple and brighter signage with large lettering; brighter street markings, especially at intersections; widening and adding left-turn lanes and signals at intersections, and extending the length of merge or exit lanes. Safer vehicles can also reduce the consequences of driving errors by older drivers by putting safety features that address aging-relating deficits and improving cars to help withstand and avoid crashes.
People age differently, and growing old does not mean a person will be a safety hazard on the road, therefore, being able to drive safely depends on the person’s physical and mental health. The elder driver should be required to have a vision test, hearing test, and road test. A physical and psychological examination should be requested to determine if they are still physically and mentally fit before they can renew their license. Because people age differently, a mandatory retesting every two years for elderly drivers 65 and older will determine if the license should be kept in good standing, restricted, or revoked entirely.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016, August 19). Graduated driver licensing. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/phlp/publications/topic/gdl.html
Goldstein, S. (2014, November 28). Expectant mom nearly 9 months pregnant struck, killed in pharmacy parking lot, baby survives: police. New York Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/pregnant-mom-struck-killed-elderly-driver-baby-survives-article-1.2026851
Loughran D.S., Seabury S.A., ; Zakaras L. (2007). What risks do older drivers pose to traffic safety? Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9272.html
Mather M., Jacobsen, L.A. ; Pollard K.M. (2015).Aging in the United States.Population Bulletin.70(2), Retrieved from https://www.prb.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/aging-us-population-bulletin-1.pdf
TRIP (2018). Preserving the mobility and safety of older Americans. Retrieved from www.tripnet.org/docs/Older_Americans_Mobility_TRIP_Report_2018.pdf
Von Fremd M. (2011, February 9). How old is too old to drive?.ABC News. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/US/elderly-drivers-drive/story?id=12873748