I know, I know, this is an issue I have written about before. I am sure I will write about it again. And, for the sake of full disclosure, by most definitions I am a senior myself, and many of my best friends are seniors. 🙂 My company even provides home care services to elders and others who need support for Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), including driving.
My perspective is that driving, for all of us, including me, is a privilege, not a right. Reduced ability to drive safely should be detected through regular, rigorous testing. When it is determined that ability to drive is not adequate — which should be a high benchmark — drive should immediately end. That goes for my driving, as well.
With all of that out of the way, this is truly a serious issue that truly deserves on-going discussion. Over the past week, we had two very sad accidents involving older drivers here in California, including a 90 year old who drove into a nursing home in San Jose, killing two residents. That tragedy and others like it are absolutely avoidable. The fact that they are not prevented is our fault, as a society.
That the data exists to make us very aware of the dangers of driving for seniors is very clear. An article on MSNBC, “Older drivers make mistakes, even when healthy,” points out some of that data. The article discusses a new study of drivers between the ages of 70 and 89.
The oldest people in the study, who were between ages 85 and 89, made four times as many critical errors in a driving test than the youngest people in the study, who were between ages 70 and 74, the study said.
One drver out of six made a mistake serious enough for the professional driving instructor riding with the driver to set the emergency brake or take control of steering. One out of six is a huge number. Significantly, none of the test subjects had any form of dementia, so that was not a factor.
The older the driver, the more likely problems were to occur:
adults ages 70 to 74 made, on average, less than one critical error. But adults ages 85 to 89 made, on average, nearly four critical errors, according to the study.
Citing statistics from the US Census Bureau, the article points out that,
There were 30 fatal accidents for every 100,000 licensed drivers for people ages 75 and older, [versus] 19 fatal accidents for every 100,000 licensed drivers for people between 55 and 64 …
That is more than 50% higher for older drivers, and it is clear that the statistics for drivers 75 years of age are better than the statistics at 85 years of age.
Now, are there good drivers who are 85 years old? Indisputably. This is not a sermon about taking away driver’s licenses based on age. It is a plea for honest discussion and regular, serious testing as we age. Anything else is just unacceptable, in my opinion.
Best wishes, Bert