According to a study conducted by the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, “on the basis of estimated annual travel, the fatality rate for drivers 85 and over is nine times as high as the rate for drivers 25 through 69 years old.” This is an alarming statistic, and is a serious cause for concern.
In recent years, the number of elderly drivers has continued to increase by almost 20 percent. As this number increases, there is an increased cause for concern regarding safety on the road.
As people age, their physical health deteriorates, and this greatly effects their ability to drive. According to the National Institute on Aging, muscular and joint problems, worsening vision and hearing and an increased number of medications are several factors that contribute to the decline in safe elderly driving.
Another study conducted by the NTHSA states that 28 percent of crash-involved older drivers were turning left when they were struck. This is seven times more often than younger drivers were struck while making left turns.
Stiffening joints and weakened muscles make it hard for older drivers to turn their head, turn the steering wheel quickly and brake safely, while vision and hearing problems make it difficult for drivers to judge distances and react to certain situations. Elderly drivers also, on average, take more medications than younger drivers, and these medications may have side effects that cause problems when driving.
There is a seemingly obvious solution to the problem presented by elderly drivers. Drivers should, at a minimum, retake their driver’s test at age 60, and every five to 10 years thereafter. This would insure that each elderly driver is still capable of handling the responsibility of driving safely.
This seems to many to be such a simple solution, yet no laws have been enacted in New York that require drivers to retake their road test, or even retake the written permit test. Maybe some believe that the process would be stressful and threatening to elderly drivers. Others may believe that such a requirement would deprive older drivers of an earned privilege if they were forced to retake their driver’s test.
Logically, it does not seem fair to compromise the safety of other drivers. Driving is a privilege, not a right. Older drivers are not given the right to drive and should only be given the privilege if they are still capable of handling their vehicles safely.