When Is Someone Too Old To Drive? [Poll]

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 life. How would you handle that?

The crash involving a 100-year-old driver that injured school children in Los Angeles is a wake-up call for families to have a conversation with the aging drivers in their lives, according to the AAA.

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.

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

The driver in Wednesday's crash, Preston Carter, said he lost control of his car — possibly because of brake failure with his Cadillac. Police said Carter had a valid license and neither drugs nor alcohol were a factor in the accident. Carter says he turns 101 on Sept. 5.

Carter's car went up on a sidewalk across from an elementary school, hitting 11 children and three adults. Carter said he was leaving a grocery store parking lot at the time of the accident.

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.

To help older drivers and their families, AAA launched a website that provides free tools, resources, and expert guidance on issues related to older drivers and warning signs of a possible problem.

Here are two key warning signs cited by AAA related to older drivers:

  • A driver has been issued two or more traffic tickets or warnings in the past two years. Tickets can predict greatest risk for collision.
  • The driver has been involved in two or more collisions or “near-misses” in the past two years. Rear-end crashes, parking lot fender-benders and side collisions while turning across traffic rank as the most common mishaps for drivers with diminishing skills, depth perception or reaction time.

AAA's Senior Driving web site explains that these warning signs, however, don't always mean a driver should be taken off the road. Instead, the next steps include assessing the driver's abilities and possible impacts of medications. AAA says training programs are also available to help older drivers cope with physical changes so they can maintain their independence and mobility.

Throughout the United States, licensing policies for older adults vary. In New York, drivers must renew their driver’s licenses and pass a vision test or submit test results from a vision specialist every eight years.

Motorists may renew by mail if they submit a vision report, or they must apply in person. There are no additional requirements for senior drivers. In California, drivers 70 and older must renew their license in person. 

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

Erik Grudzien September 01, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Once you are 65+ every license renewal should be accompanied by some combination of a written and quick driving test. 10 questions like the driving permit test, and a 1-2mi trip or something simple to show they can drive safely.With license renewals being 6 years now I believe 65+ would be the age to start it, as if someone renews just before they turn 65 it would be good till they're almost 71, so effectively its only mandatory after your 71, in which time A LOT can change, even in just a year. We recently had to go through a simular situation with a elderly relative a little over two almost three years ago. We didn't even know how bad it was until another relative witnessed a small accident she had that she was unaware of and didn't even notice. It was hell taking it away and painful, but it had to be done. Sadly, absolutely nothing will ever be done about it. Governments and politicians with viciously go out and attack younger drivers, which are already regulated beyond what they should be because they don't vote and don't have a say. Whoever enacts any type of legislation on elderly will immediately be voted out of office come next election when the elderly will go out and vote in droves. (Sadly, most likely risking theirs and others lives in the process of driving to go vote should they be one of the ones who do need to be taken off the road through legislation).
Voice of Reason September 01, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Are some elderly drivers a hazard? Absolutely! Should a process be developed to test elderly drivers and remove the unsafe? Yes. Driving is a privilege, not a Right (yes, I understand the necessity aspect also but that doesn't change things). The cost of the additional testing should be made up in the license fee. Or perhaps elderly drivers could present a number of recommendation letters from folks that have ridden with them. Maybe this idea could cut down on associated costs. I can say that I would never sign off on anyone getting their license if I felt them to be unsafe, even a relative. As to your comments on younger drivers I couldn't disagree more. Every year approximately 40,000 people are killed, in the US, in auto accidents. Of those 40,000 approximately half are in the 18-25 age bracket with somewhere around 9,000 of those never seeing their 20th birthday. Teen drivers are around 4 times more likely to get in serious or fatal accidents. It is a massive problem and one that something can actually be done about. Better, more intensive drivers education. Parental involvement and education during the drivers education process. Parents put their children behind the wheel of several hundred horsepower missiles everyday without thought as to what the inexperienced, barely educated new driver's real capabilities are. Parents, put you and your child in a 350+ HP Bimmer on a Fall evening with wet leaves on the road and tell them "No holds barred" as they drive. No?
Voice of Reason September 01, 2012 at 11:30 PM
The problem doesn't stop with high end performance cars either. In Woodbury and surrounding towns there is also the problem of kids with jacked up, hot-rodded trucks. These kids can be seen speeding all over, blowing stop signs, passing in no passing zones on blind corners and hills as well as other violations. Yes, we also see "The Villagers" crawling through towns, sometimes taking the path of a pinball but they are typically traveling at a much slower speed (with a line of cars behind them) so the severity of accidents is cut proportionally. Real world observations support the data that is put out by the CDC etc.


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