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[POLL] Should Older Drivers Face Additional Testing to Stay on the Road?

Crash involving 100-year-old driver put renewed focus on older drivers.

The crash involving a 100-year-old driver that injured school children in Los Angeles is a wake-up call for families to have a conversation with the aging drivers in their lives, according to the AAA.

While the nationally-publicized incident raises public concerns about senior drivers, AAA says it is a myth that seniors are among the nation’s most dangerous. Instead, AAA's Jake Nelson said just the opposite is true. 

“Recent data tells us that drivers in their 70s get into about the same number of crashes per mile driven as do drivers in their 30s,” said Nelson, who is AAA’s director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research.  “On average, drivers in their mid- to late-80s still have lower crash rates per mile driven than drivers in their early 20s, and roughly half the crash rates of teenagers — the nation’s riskiest drivers.”

But AAA notes that with 10,000 Americans a day turning 65, an increasing number of families are faced with the challenge of balancing safety and mobility for older loved ones.

“The driver’s daughter Ms. Jenkins was right that this crash was a ‘wake up call.’  We know from research that families don’t know where to turn for help or how to get the conversation started,” said Nelson. “AAA urges families to prepare now, before they get their own wake up call.”

The driver in Wednesday's crash, Preston Carter, said he lost control of his car — possibly because of brake failure with his Cadillac. Police said Carter had a valid license and neither drugs nor alcohol were a factor in the accident. Carter says he turns 101 on Sept. 5.

Carter's car went up on a sidewalk across from an elementary school, hitting 11 children and three adults. Carter said he was leaving a grocery store parking lot at the time of the accident.

Nelson said a national AAA survey shows 80 percent of senior drivers “self-police” their driving by voluntarily avoiding one or more higher-risk driving situations like driving at night or during rush-hour times of day. AAA has also found that age, on its own, is not what leads to a loss of driving skills. Instead, medical conditions that come with aging — which can affect drivers as early as in their 40s — are what commonly reduce driving ability.

To help older drivers and their families, AAA launched a website that provides free tools, resources, and expert guidance on issues related to older drivers and warning signs of a possible problem.

Here are two key warning signs cited by AAA related to older drivers:

  • A driver has been issued two or more traffic tickets or warnings in the past two years. Tickets can predict greatest risk for collision.
  • The driver has been involved in two or more collisions or “near-misses” in the past two years. Rear-end crashes, parking lot fender-benders and side collisions while turning across traffic rank as the most common mishaps for drivers with diminishing skills, depth perception or reaction time.

AAA's Senior Driving web site explains that these warning signs, however, don't always mean a driver should be taken off the road. Instead, the next steps include assessing the driver's abilities and possible impacts of medications. AAA says training programs are also available to help older drivers cope with physical changes so they can maintain their independence and mobility.

Throughout the United States, licensing policies for older adults vary. In New York, drivers must renew their driver’s licenses and pass a vision test or submit test results from a vision specialist every eight years.

Motorists may renew by mail if they submit a vision report, or they must apply in person. There are no additional requirements for senior drivers. In California, drivers 70 and older must renew their license in person. 

What do you think? Should New York have any additional requirements or testing for older drivers? Take the Patch Poll and tell us your thoughts on the issue in the comments section of this article.

Francis T McVetty September 13, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Do you really think that those tests are really "driving tests" ? Has anyone taken a "driving test" recently? It is a joke. How can a 5-10 minute test actually evaluate a drivers ability? It is a money making scheme by the state government. The testing of older drivers would only add more money to the depleted coffers. It is important that the families of these " older" drivers take note. Does the vehicle have unexplained damages? Go for a drive once in a while when you visit and see how they are doing. Most parents wil listen to their children when it comes to driving the car. You may have more of a problem with you dad because it is a man thing, that driving a car. Don't give the government MORE power to limit our freedoms. They already have enough control of our lives.
Elizabeth R Baecher September 13, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Yes to Wendy's suggestion that if there is testing, it should apply to everyone. There are those with excellent faculties in their 80s and others whose abilities start to wane years earlier.. As the population continues to age, more older people are in fine shape and should not have their independence arbitrarily removed.
Walden Macnair September 13, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Testing 80 year olds or for that matter retesting anyone will be a massive waste of money. How much more in taxes are you willing to pay for something that will have no results? One Million, two, ten, one hundred? How will we pay for it, through higher real estate taxes, higher gasoline taxes or maybe a drivers license should be $1,000.00 to renew. Take a reality check folks. It ain't the 80 year olds in the fatal accidents, it's the 25 year olds.
Elizabeth R Baecher September 13, 2012 at 09:47 PM
You pay for your drivers license, so each individual should be charged to cover test costs. I don't know statistics, but years ago I would see crowds of middle aged persons getting of the train while gulping little cups of gin - then getting into their cars to drive home in possibly a besotted state. These menaces were more like corporation execs, not 25 year olds. While the drinking cars may have vanished, rest assured the drunks have not.
Patricia September 13, 2012 at 09:58 PM
When a police officer makes a DWI arrest it takes him off the road for 3 to 5 hours. If a job with 2 to 4 police officers on the road makes an arrest that can take half of patrol out of service for some time. Drinking and driving is across the board with all ages, men and women.

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