Elderly Drivers: Worse Than Teens
Author: Melissa Lahti
September 1, 2012
I recently read a very disturbing news article about a man in Los Angles who is just about to turn 101. He was backing out of a parking space near a school when he miscalculated and backed onto the sidewalk and ran over 11 people, including 9 children. He has a valid driver’s license and says he is very sorry. Unfortunately sorry doesn’t always cut it in these cases. Thank God no one died in this instance.
There are so many others that were not so fortunate. In Santa Monica in 2003 an 86 year old man stepped on the gas instead of the break driving straight through an outdoor market. Killing 10 and injuring more than 70. In 2007 a 90 year old woman ran a red light and killed a 17 year old girl in Dallas, Texas. The junior in High School was on her way to school to take an exam and never made it.
According to research the fatality rate among drivers begins to climb after the age of 65. Between the ages of 75 – 84 the death rate is about 3 in every 100 million miles driven, equal to teenage drivers. After the age of 85 this rate shoots to about 3 times higher.
A few states are starting to see this as a growing problem since the elderly population is on the rise and expected to reach about 9.6million people 85 and older by 2030. California now requires people over the age of 70 to renew their license in person. If they then fail the eye test they have to take the driving test. This really is not enough. For my first 10 years of driving I needed glasses and couldn’t read a street sign for the life of me and still managed to pass the eye test every time. Our brain has the capability to remember shapes, including letters and in order for a person to fail an eye test at the DMV their eye sight has to be pretty darn bad.
Giving up driving is an extremely hard thing for elderly people to do since it is such a huge loss of independence. When a person has been independent for so long and all of a sudden has to depend on others to do so much for them, it feels horrible. But it is a part of life that everyone must face one day and if we calculate how many lives may potentially be saved by a decision such as this, I would think it would make it all worth it.
As far as a solution to this problem, I feel that every state should make a law that every person over the age of 70 should have to renew their license at least every two years (if not every year). They should have to renew in person and they should have to take the driving test (Every Time). How many more people have to be injured or killed before something is done about this?