We’ve all heard the phrase “age is just a number,” but when your age begins to affect your ability to properly drive, it is not just a number but a hazard to yourself, as well as others. Senior citizens are those who are 65 or older, and although they are more likely to wear a seatbelt, not text and drive or drink and drive, due to age-related vulnerabilities, they are also more likely to be injured in an accident or cause one. According to Jurek Grabowski, the research director for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “the amount of time the average driver spends behind the wheel each year is equivalent to seven 40-hour weeks at the office.” That’s approximately 293 hours behind the wheel, and therefore, it is important to be attentive and pay attention to the road.
Advances in vehicle technology have definitely made it easier and more convenient for seniors to drive better. Standard features like seatbelts and airbags, as well as design features that reduce operator fatigue and discomfort, help compensate for physical changes as we age and are there for our overall safety. However, not every individual takes this into account.
In 2014, about 221,000 senior drivers were injured in traffic crashes and 5,709 were killed. AAA states that “Per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase beginning at age 75 and rise sharply after age 80… due to increased risk of injury and medical complications.” Senior drivers who use one or more medications oftentimes are not aware of the potential impact these medications have on driving performance. As we age, we usually begin to lose our eyesight and hearing, essential senses used while driving. Therefore, it should be taken into consideration for seniors over the age of 65 to retake their driver’s license exam in order to remain on the roads.
Some states have already taken this suggestion into account and have implemented it into their driving laws. In Arizona, once an individual turns 65, their license expires and they must retake the driving exam in order to stay out on the roads. In Florida, after turning 80, individuals must renew their licenses every six years and pass an eye exam with each renewal. These rules, however, needed to be more strictly enforced.
Growing older is inevitable, and while our minds might still be young, sometimes our bodies are not. While driving and out on the road, this can become a hazard to not only ourselves, but others as well. Retaking a driver’s license exam after a certain age is not meant to be degrading, but rather a safety precaution in reducing the amount of vehicular accidents we see in the U.S. on a daily basis. Think of your elderly loved ones. They tell you to be a safe driver, but they should be one too.
Photo: M. Tinbergen