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Patch's Poll: Should Elderly Drivers Be Subjected to Greater Restrictions?

AAA says a crash involving a 100-year-old man is a wake-up call for families to have a conversation with the aging drivers in their lives.

The crash involving a 100-year-old driver who injured schoolchildren in Los Angeles days ago drew national attention to the issue of aging drivers on the road.

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.

In Los Angeles, a 100-year-old man named Preston Carter injured 14 people, including 11 schoolchildren, after driving onto the sidewalk after backing out of a nearby parking lot, according to the Associated Press.

Carter's daughter, Rose Jenkins, told NBC Los Angeles, "I think this is a wakeup call and I don't think he'll be driving any more."

AAA agreed.

“The driver’s daughter Ms. Jenkins was right that this crash was a ‘wakeup 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 wakeup call.”

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.

What do you think? Should Connecticut have any additional requirements or testing for older drivers? Take our poll and share your thoughts on the issue in the comments section of this article.

Jon September 04, 2012 at 08:25 PM
A simple eye exam and/reflex exam is all that is needed. What that age might be is up for argument. I have seen one too many accidents. I have seen one where the elderly driver didn't even know that he hit an pedestrian. People were banging on his car to stop but he just drove off. My Grandfather had two accidents in a five hour period at age 90. He was probably the wisest and sharpest person I knew but at a certain age he definitely should not have been driving.
Freddi Hoffmann September 04, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Age is not the issue. It is one's ability to see, comprehend and react appropriately physically and mentally. McLean offers one of only two clinically based Driver Assessment and Rehab Programs in Ct. If you are concerned about a loved one's ability to drive safely, don't just take the keys away. There may be ways for the person to drive with the guidance of a specially trained occupational therapist and possible adaptations of the vehicle. Visit www.McLeanCare.org and click on Rehab and read about the Driver Assessment Program. It could help someone you love keep this/her independence or it could help you have medical information why s/he must stop driving.
DON886 September 05, 2012 at 12:18 AM
It does seem that it is not really the age that is the issue, but the physical capabilities of the person. I don't really know how a program could be set up to test all drivers over a certain age periodically. IT is good that most seem to "self police" . Freddi had good comments , but this is a voluntary thing family members would need to encourage older drivers to take part in.
Harry Sawyer September 05, 2012 at 07:07 AM
What a joke... You have the right to freedom of travel. At any age. Try paying attention when YOU are driving! Drive defensive. Try a race on a MX track. Sharpen your skills and your coordinaton. Most of us drive ALOT slower when we get older... Take the phone out of your face, and pay attention!!!!!
Peter Dinella September 05, 2012 at 03:13 PM
The subject is moot because politicians are not going to touch this age-driver issue with a ten foot pole. Does it need to be looked into? Absolutely. With apologies to Freddie, we had to take away my father's car keys before he killed himself or others. About 2 years later he died from alzheimer's disease. This is a very important issue, and I hope the blog on this subject does not deteriorate in quasi-philosophical diatribes.

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