Needed: Aging-Driver Policy

By Ochshorn, Ezra | The Christian Science Monitor, September 3, 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Needed: Aging-Driver Policy

Ochshorn, Ezra, The Christian Science Monitor

For an elderly couple I know who live in rural Florida, driving represents far more than everyday independence and freedom. It means survival. With no one else to get their food and medicine, and no public transportation, he drives while she tells him where to go. Both are approaching 80, the wife paralyzed from a stroke, the husband legally blind.

Thishealth-vs.-mobility predicament - familiar to older people nationwide - reflects the complexity and controversy surrounding elder drivers in America. More seniors are behind the wheel than ever - 19 million over age 70, according to the US Department of Transportation.Within two decades, this number is expected to climb to 30 million, as people live longer and remain active in their later years.

Since an 86-year-old motorist plowed into a farmers' market in Santa Monica, Calif., in July - killing 10 and injuring dozens - some commentators have suggested older drivers are an irresponsible menace with no business on public roadways. Given the growth in the senior population, the national debate on how - or whether - to regulate driving privileges for the elderly is really only just beginning.

Most older motorists I met during eight years of working in hospitals were safe drivers who restricted their own travels, such as driving only in the daytime. Indeed, when it comes to deadly road behavior - speeding, driving while intoxicated, running red lights, using cellphones, road rage - research by the government, the AAA, and the insurance industry shows the majority of perpetrators are younger drivers.

That said, advanced age definitely is a risk factor in driving safety. Problems with vision, hearing, reaction time, medication use, cognitive impairment, and physical ailments can spell roadway disaster. I also have known elderly drivers who are in deep denial about their diminished driving capacity. While people over 70 comprise about 10 percent of licensed drivers, federal transportation data show they are involved in 13 percent of all fatal traffic accidents.On a per-mile-driven basis, they have higher accident rates than all but the youngest drivers.

Furthermore, it is often elder drivers themselves who don't survive crashes. Seniors who are physically vulnerable are far more likely than younger drivers to die of a comparable injury, according to the American Medical Association. By age 85, their auto fatality rate is nine times that of drivers aged 25 to 69.

Something needs to be done, most people agree.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Needed: Aging-Driver Policy


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?