Age presents hazards on the road
Published: Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Updated: Friday, October 29, 2010 13:10
In the next 20 years, the number of drivers older than 70 is expected to triple. Even today, older drivers make up a significant percentage of the people on the roads. However, most laws restricting drivers in general are limited to teenagers, as are incredibly expensive car insurance premiums. The issues involving older drivers on the roads are generally much less debated and controversial than those surrounding teenage drivers, even though statistics shows that older drivers are actually more likely than younger ones to be involved in multi-vehicle crashes. However, as the baby boomers begin to reach retirement age and the number of older drivers on the roads increases exponentially, this matter absolutely cannot be ignored. Elderly driving legislation is a necessity and should be part of nationwide political considerations.
Crash statistics for teenage drivers seem to be everywhere. But what of those on elderly drivers? Since the topic is a more delicate one, it makes sense that there would be less propaganda than on the issue of teen driving. After all, the elderly are more likely to vote than teenagers, so politicians are doubly hesitant about restricting their right to the road. And for the teenage population, every step towards a full license, no matter how small, is a step towards freedom. For the elderly, the exact opposite is true—but that should not stop politicians from protecting the public.
As people grow older, they begin to lose motor skills, cognition, eye sight and hearing, among other abilities. All of these skills are unquestionably essential to operating a car accurately and safely. Therefore, the rational conclusion would be that there needs to be a way to control the licensures of the elderly to insure only safe drivers remain on the road.
We certainly cannot impose restrictions merely according to age groups (although one could argue that this already currently happens with respect to teenagers), but we can try to measure driving capabilities accurately. There are definitely people over 70 capable of driving sensibly but this cannot be taken for granted. Testing driving capacities is necessary for the safety of the driver and those around them. It should not be taken by older drivers as an offense but rather as a necessary precaution done with the best of intentions.
Re-licensure exams make a lot of sense. For example, California requires that drivers over the age of 70 who have been in two or more crashes in a year retake their driving tests. These types of measures are a good first step towards assuring the safety of older drivers. However, preventive measures should be taken as well in order to avoid mishaps before they turn into tragedies. Not only are elderly drivers more prone to traffic accidents in general, but they are also at a higher risk of serious injury than are younger drivers.
Often, older drivers personally choose to stop driving or to limit the hours in the day that they can drive. However, this decision is usually taken as a reaction to an accident or near-accident situation, or due to the influence of family. While it is fantastic that such responsible measures are being taken at a personal level, it is essential to take them to a national level, firstly by increasing awareness and secondly by recommending resolutions.
Frankly, we cannot force senior citizens to limit their own independence or to retake a driving exam if it is not proven that they are a risk at the wheel. We can, however, implore them to consider their safety and that of every one of us.