The issue of the safety of elderly drivers made the news recently when a 100-year-old California man hit 14 people with his car while backing out of a parking lot. A common reaction was negative: Older people should not be allowed to drive, said many. In reality, though, the facts indicate that drivers over 80 have fewer car accidents than drivers in their early 20s, according to the American Automobile Association’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research.
More and more older drivers are expected to be on the roads as the baby boomer generation ages. AAA reports that 10,000 Americans reach age 65 every day. The number of older drivers is estimated to reach 57 million by 2030, twice as many as today. In California, more than 71,000 people aged 90 and over held driver’s licenses at the end of 2011.
Families who worry about elderly relatives driving may be relieved to know that the California Department of Motor Vehicles can help. California is one of 28 states that impose extra conditions when renewing driver’s licenses for older people. Drivers over 70 are required to pass a written exam and take an eye test in order to renew their driver’s license, while younger drivers can renew automatically without an exam.
DMV employees watch for impairment and declining driving skills when older drivers come in for license renewal. If they detect any potential problems, they have the option of asking an older driver to take a driving physical test. California has no upper age limit for licensed drivers.
It is true, however, that age brings changes that could put an older driver at a disadvantage. Vision is the most common ability to decline, as eyes inevitably age and change. Eye diseases become more prevalent as well. In addition, driving requires attention, memory and analytical skills, all cognitive abilities that can decline with age. Medications that many older people use can affect cognitive performance, too.
Physically, older drivers can lose muscle tone, flexibility and endurance, making it harder to operate the vehicle, turn to the side to look for oncoming traffic and react quickly when necessary. Conditions like arthritis can also impair movement.
Drivers of any age can cause serious car accidents. Although elderly drivers with impaired abilities may be dangerous, so may be other drivers who are distracted by texting or impaired by alcohol or drugs.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by a dangerous or negligent driver, legal remedies may be available to you. Contact the Pasadena, Los Angeles car accident attorneys at Binder and Associates to discuss your situation and your legal options.