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WWL: Elders Behind the Wheel
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
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In this episode:

A spate of serious accidents in the past few months has raised concerns about elderly drivers


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49:03 minutes (23.55 MB)
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A spate of serious accidents in the past few months has raised concerns about elderly drivers.

As a group, older drivers are relatively safe when measured by the number of crashes per licensed driver. But if you measure by crashes per mile driven, the data show a substantial rise in crash for those older than 70, according to a study by the AARP. And, the problem is likely to get worse. By 2025 one in four drivers will be 65 or older compared with 15 percent now, according to statistics from the AAA. This means nearly 10 million Americans older than 85 who have driven their whole lives - aging baby boomers who may not be quick to give up their car keys.

Coming up, Where We Live, we’ll talk about what it means for the aging population when they are no longer able to drive – and about how this loss of independence often leads to depression.

Join the conversation… Should there be additional testing of older drivers? How do you get mom or dad to hang up the keys before they’re involved in an accident? Or, is driving experience more important than one’s age?

*This episode originally aired on August 4, 2009.

Links for this Episode:

Accidents Happen

Due to the inherent risk involved in operating a motor vehicle, most drivers implement safety measures in their daily routines - we buckle every seatbelt, we take the time to strap our children into their car seats, and try to abide by motor vehicle laws.

However, even if we take every precaution and buckle every seatbelt, we cannot govern the actions of others on the roads. Studies show that the majority of accidents are caused by a driver's carelessness, recklessness, inattention or neglect.  All drivers should be tested, regardless of age.

Don't try to handle the consequences of being involved in a serious auto accident alone. An experienced Accident Attorney can help you secure the financial help you both need and deserve.

re driver testing

Why not phase in the idea of monitoring drivers as we raise public awareness?

If a confidential, voluntary "video-game" model or other mock driving course could be developed, people could test themselves and get feedback on their driving skills. If there were a mock driving test, people could be advised that: they are fine, check back in two years; you should check with your doctor; you may need new eyeglasses; your reaction times are slow; you should not drive at night...etc.

In this way, we'd introduce people to the idea that they need to monitor their ability to drive. It could be combined with questions about prior accidents, new laws, and other related issues. A person could see how they compare to others and also keep track of how they may changed over time.  

The insurance companies could give discounts to those who provide proof they'd taken such a test. However, the results should be confidential at this point.

It would be a good place to start and would give responsibility to the drivers to check their skills in an unbiased setting.

We need to improve public transportation

Nobody is willing to give up the freedom to go anywhere s/he wants.  It's understandable that elders would still want to drive because there is no other option than driving!  Not every town has good and affordable bus or taxi service, unfortunately.  I hope we wont' need to face such situation or even have people risk theirs and others lives in another 10-15 years...

Listener email from Stephen

Brenda, if that's the case then you'd have no issues passing the hypothetical test.

To make it fair, I propose the following: No one can drive til 18.

If you call anyone other than 911 while driving, your punishment is equal to your first DUI and so on.

Driving test every year until you are 25. Then every 10 years until you are 65. Then every 5 years until you are 75. Then every years thereafter. Oh, I know the logistics of this plan are impossible to implement and yes, major public transportation overhaul needs to be part of this too.

Just dreaming.

Listener email from Ellen

Agreed. 65 seems really young. But there should be a mandatory test at 80, no question.

Listener email from Brenda

Wait a minute here, I am over 65, very fit, and can outdrive some of these younger drivers. Depends on how fit and active one keeps themseves!!

Listener email from Steve

All that is being said applies to all drivers. Why not test EVERYONE at least once in 5 years?

Listener email from Eunice

I am a 70 year old in very good health and find driving more challenging since cell phones, ipods, etc. are the norm for many drivers. I have to constantly watch drivers eyes, etc. to see if they're using something which takes their focus away from the road. In other words, I'm having to do much more defensive driving

Listener email

Turn off the gosh darn turn signal. But in all seriousness my grandfather drove a quarter mile on the sidewalk

Listener email from Lauren

"As an optometrist I have had the experience of having family members ask me to tell my "elderly" patient that they need to stop driving. Often the patients do not want to give up their independence but may be more willing if their doctor or eye doctor tells them that their visual, physical or mental limitations make it dangerous for them."

Listener email from Erika

There shoud be no age cutoff universally applied, but case by case based on accidents as well as perhaps driving tests.

My 84 year old grandpa's had 2 serious accidents in the past two years. I think he is now too dangerous to be on the road. Previously he had a good driving record.

The only accident I've ever been in involved an old man who drove out into an oncoming truck which sent him spinning into me. That was this old man's third accident in a year. Common sense dictates he's now too dangerous to be on the road. But how would these men get their grocery and social needs met without the ability to drive. Who would pay for their transport?

In-home care

It is so sad to hear about incidences, like elders getting in vehicle crashes that could be prevented.  The problem with many seniors is that they are lonely and losing their driving privaledges is the last leg to their ability to socialize.  They often refuse to give up this last bit of freedom and capability.  I write a blog for a senior in-home care company that offers things like companionship, cleaning assistance and medication reminders. These simple tasks can make all the difference in the quality of life for a senior. If you're interested, check out www.rightathome.net/seniorhomecare.

Take Care,