Elderly Drivers - Danger on the Road?
"Preston Carter, a 100 year old driver backed his blue Cadillac up onto a sidewalk into a crowd of people outside of a Los Angeles Elementary School. Nine children and two adults were injured in the incident.”
“Elizabeth Grimes, a 90 year old widow backed her Grand Mercury out of her driveway, on to her lawn and into the street hitting a curb. She mistook the gas pedal for the brake and took off with a quick start. Six blocks down, Elizabeth ran a red light and hit a seventeen year old driver who was on her way to school. Five days later the teen girl died. “
There are thousands of stories like these that we never get to hear. They bring awareness to an issue that isn’t widely addressed. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration senior drivers account for 17% of pedestrian fatalities and 14 % of traffic related fatalities.
As we age, it’s normal to experience drastic changes in driving abilities. It’s important to pay attention to signs that that shows that age is interfering with the basic driving skills because failing to do so cost a life.
How Aging Effects Driving Ability
Not everyone ages the same so there is no set age in which a driver must retire their license. However, recent research shows that seniors are more likely to receive traffic tickets and are at higher risk of causing accidents than young drivers. Why? As the body ages, basic physical abilities become limited. Our vision changes and it becomes harder to see, in some cases hearing is impaired and reflexes aren’t as fast as they may have been previously.
Unfortunately, seniors tend to see a reduction in their flexibility, coordination and strength. These factors have a significant impact on a person’s ability to effectively and safely operate a vehicle. For instance:
- Seniors, who tend to be more forgetful and easily confused, may find it difficult to keep up with road signs, markings and signals on roadways. It becomes hard to pay attention to the movements in traffic, pedestrian activity and roadway markings.
- Lack of arm strength makes steering and turning more difficult than usual
- Vision impairments could cause an elderly driver to run a red light or hit an object.
- Poor circulation or pain in the legs could make it hard for an elderly driver to move their foot between the brake and the gas pedal. This reduces the reaction time.
Safe Senior Driving
The Motor Vehicles Department in the state of California requires that licensed drives 70 years of age or old is required to renew their license in person at the DMV rather than doing so online. In some cases, a new vision test may be required. Here are some tips to ensure safety while on the road:
- Try to limit driving only during daylight hours and in reasonable weather.
- Have your eyes checked annually to ensure that you are wearing the appropriate corrective lenses
- Ask your physician about the effects your medication may have on your ability to drive
- Most important know your limits. If it’s hard for you to drive in fast moving traffic, than you may want to avoid freeways and busy avenues.