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Are senior drivers actually unfit for the road?

There is a popular perceptionthat senior drivers cause the majority of accidents and hence
should be taken off the roads.A conservative estimate shows that the number of senior
drivers on American roads is estimated to increase threefold over the next 20 years. If all
senior drivers were taken off the roads, the future of the societywould be quite bleak! Many
studies have been conducted to find out the driving capabilities (or lack of them) in senior
drivers. The findings of a study conducted by AAA show, senior drivers have the highest
rate of using seatbelts, have the lowest rate of driving under the influence of alcohol and
are responsible for killing fewer pedestrians or motorists than drivers belonging to any other
age group. So contrary to popular belief, they really aren’t the unfit, irresponsible maniacs
on the road they are made out to be. In fact they are relatively safe drivers because they
are more experienced on the road, and more careful.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration, have found that while the most dangerous drivers on the road are the
youngest drivers (15-20 years old) the safest ones are the senior drivers (64-69 year
old).Though senior drivers may seem to have as high a crash rate as younger drivers,
especially teens, they drive much less than any other age group on the road so their crash
rate per mile driven isn’t really very conclusive. No wonder auto insurance quotes are lower
for senior drivers than they are for teenaged ones.

However senior drivers over 68 are frailer and have higher chances of succumbing to
accident related injuries than younger drivers. In this regard, an NHTSA study showed that
the rate of fatality for drivers above the age of 85 is almost nine-fold the rate for younger
drivers (25-69 years old).

Also, advancing age brings with it slower reflexes, illnesses and other age-related
deteriorations in the body. This is where family members can play an important role by
keeping a lookout for signs that show the driver might be a risk on the road to himself as
well as others around him.Deteriorating vision, loss of hearing, forgetfulness, any chronic
illness that is disconcerting, delayed response to unexpected situations are all possible
indicators that a driver might not be safe on the road. Minor dents and scratches in the car,
traffic tickets, or near misses should be good indicators that a conversation about driving
with the senior driver at home is due.

It is however, extremely important to remember that giving up the car keys snatches away
a person’s independence and also greatly restricts the ability to visit family and friends, run
small errands, indulge in recreations like going out for picnics, dinner, or to the theater.
Being dependant could quickly lead to depression and inactivity and hasten the ageing
process. Unless one is very sure that a senior driver really needs to be taken off the road, it
is better to insist on smaller restrictions like driving fewer miles, staying away from rush
hour traffic, not driving at night or in bad weather.The focus should be onenabling senior
drivers to continue driving safely for as long as possible instead of taking away driving
privileges based on age.
Crash risk assessments for senior drivers are available as are comprehensive driving
evaluations by occupational therapists with specialized training. These usually don’t take
more than 2-3 hours and are a good way to gauge the driving skills and road fitness of
senior drivers. If need be, they can be recommended driver safety courses especially
tailored for senior drivers to help acclimatize them to modern driving conditions and also
refresh their defensive driving skills.Also senior friendly websites recommend brain games
to help seniors keep themselves mentally alert to keep reflexes strong. Senior specific
organizations like AAA have taken up senior driving issues very seriously. AARP regularly
conducts classroom and online drivers’ safety classes to help senior drivers hone their
driving skills.

Increasing awareness and redressal of senior driving issues has led to a steady decline in
per capita fatal accident rates for senior drivers across the US. It is clearly evident that
senior driver accidents are the lowest today than they have been in the last few decades.
Let us not talk about taking a driver off the road just because of the age; instead let’s
concentrate on makingthe road smoother for them.