A common hazard for drivers across America are animals such as deer leaping in front of moving vehicles causing traffic accidents daily. There is a similar concern on the rise, fatalities and traffic accidents caused by senior citizens.
In the past two years I have witnessed several incidents of near accidents caused by elderly drivers seemingly unaware of on-coming traffic. Just today, I came upon an accident seconds after it occurred. An elderly couple pulled out into on- coming traffic striking head-on a car traveling 45 miles per hour, killing one person and injuring three others. John, a thirty-something year old victim of the crash stated to me in shock, “They just pulled right out in front of us, like they didn’t even bother to look first.” Had it occurred seconds earlier, my little boy and I would have been the ones eradicated from our vehicle with the Jaws of Life.
“The Federal Highway Administration states that in 2007 there were more than 20 million licensed drivers 70 and older in the United States. (www.wesport-news.com)
“A study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, where researchers used data from 1999-2004 to make the following discoveries about aging drivers:
1. Fatality rates for drivers begin to climb after age 65.
2. From ages 75-84, the fatality rates match those of teenage drivers (i.e., about three deaths per 100 million miles).
3. For drivers over the age of 85, the fatality rate skyrocketed to nearly four times that of teenage drivers (i.e., three fatal accidents a day).
The conclusion was particularly daunting, considering that the U.S. Census Bureau projected 9.6 million Americans who would be 85 and older by 2030, an astounding 73% increase from 2007 estimates. At the time, road safety analysts believed that by 2030, when all baby boomers were 65 and older, these elderly drivers would be responsible for 25% of all fatal crashes.” (www.chico.injuryboard.com)
The tropical paradise of Florida is a haven for retirees. According to a local news report there are 250,000 drivers over the age of 85 in Florida alone. A staggering 20% of them have a form of dementia. As a Florida resident, I find myself bracing the steering wheel at the mere sight of an elderly person driving, much the way I would upon sighting a deer standing along side a highway in upstate NY.
“In 2004, Florida began requiring drivers 80 and older to pass a visual acuity test when renewing their driver’s license.” (www.wesport-news.com)
People living in the Golden Age of the life cycle should be treated with the utmost dignity, care, and appreciation. Yet at the risk of offending some, we must be proactive in removing as many elderly drivers from the road as possible. Much the way a parent oversees a teenager’s driving, family members must monitor their elderly parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
The fear of losing independence is one of the greatest reasons senior citizens don’t give up their license on their own. Senior Saints like teenagers, want their driving privileges extended for their own independence and freedom. Yet common sense must prevail, with the accountably of loved ones.
Many factors contribute to elderly driver accidents; “poor judgment in making left-hand turns; drifting within the traffic lane; and decreased ability to change behavior in response to an unexpected or rapidly changing situation.” “Eyes change with age. They lose the ability to focus quickly. Peripheral vision narrows and the retina become less sensitive to light. Physical activity is needed to keep a person strong and flexible for those quick reactions needed while driving. To be a safe driver, paying attention to road conditions and your own body changes is essential. A person’s chronological age is not an absolute predictor of driving ability, but its impact should not be denied. Ultimately, however, what counts on the road is performance.” (smartmotorist.com)
Last month the Westport News reported in Darien, CT an 89-year-old elderly man turned himself into police after he struck a 15 year old, seriously injuring the child. The man claimed he didn’t even realize it until the next day when he saw the accident reported in the paper. (www.westport-news.com)
Lets save lives and prevent this from happening again. It is a tough reality to face. But it’s time to take the keys away from the great-grandparents.