Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Eye Tests on Elderly Motorists Save Lives

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Eye Tests on Elderly Motorists Save Lives

Article excerpt

Requiring vision tests before renewing drivers licenses can significantly reduce fatal crashes involving elderly motorists, according to a nationwide study.

The evidence suggests that efforts in many states to make it easier to renew licenses may be misguided, said the lead researcher, David T. Levy, an economics professor at the University of Baltimore.

"Many people think license screening is just pro forma and nobody is really protected," Levy said. "This study shows that license screening, particularly vision testing, is effective at reducing fatal crashes involving senior drivers."

The eight states that did not require vision testing during the 1985-89 study had 7 percent more fatalities each year among elderly drivers than the 42 states with mandatory vision screening, the researchers reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Testing motorists' road knowledge had an insignificant effect on the rate of fatal crashes involving elderly motorists, researchers said.

Researchers controlled for differences among states that could skew the results, such as how much people drove on average, how fast they drove, the degree of urbanization, the availability of hospitals and other factors.

During the five years studied, an average of 17,294 drivers older than 70 were involved in fatal crashes each year.

"We estimate that 282 lives would be saved with universal vision testing compared with no states having vision tests," they said.

And that's only the lives saved in fatal crashes involving senior drivers.

"There might be additional lives saved among younger drivers, because some of the younger drivers also have vision problems and are still driving," Levy added in an interview.

With the graying of America and some highly publicized fatal wrecks involving elderly drivers, officials have been wrestling with how to get hazardous seniors off the roads without penalizing able ones. …

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