Seniors

How do we define a senior? The AARP allows & encourages membership in their organization at age 50. Most people at 50 would consider themselves middle-aged. Who are the elderly? What defines being “old?” We are treading in dangerous waters. There are many drivers post-sixty years of age that possess & display adequate to excellent driving skills. Unfortunately, there are many that do not. The aging process proceeds in all of us. In some, the process is more slow & gradual; in others it can move at warp speed. Seniors are in 2nd place behind teens with respect to fatal accidents. They have a high mortality rate due as much to their physical frailties as accident rates. By 2030, the 65+ group will double in size to about 70 million. We have all seen people that look and act like someone much younger. I have personally witnessed a fair number of 70-80 year olds successfully participating in track events. This is true for only a small minority of elders.  So, how do we approach this issue? As we age, our senses and muscular coordination undergo changes that can radically impact upon our driving abilities. Good vision is vital for safe driving. About 90-95% of the needed information to drive is transmitted visually. Many seniors are visually challenged and some recognize the problem & seek proper medical attention and a fair number do give up driving after dark. Hearing loss is also prevalent and can have negative consequences (not hearing oncoming emergency vehicles). Hearing aids can be of value but do have limitations for many seniors. Loss of cognitive skills, muscle mass and overall body flexibility can prevent rapid responses when needed such as moving from accelerator to the brake pedal. In may be difficult or impossible to turn adequately to check blind spots or to parallel park.

Some states are reevaluating licensure laws with the possibility of adding specific requirements for senior drivers. Proposals include retesting after say 75 years of age (with a road test) & also having types of restrictive licensure, e.g. daylight driving only, distance limits & taking senior driver education programs. This idea is still in its infancy & is not popular in some states with the highest geriatric populations. Legislators know that seniors vote & this idea is not popular with this constituent group. Doctors and relatives can identify problem senior drivers to state officials. In most states, these individuals will be assessed for driving competency but there is great variation from state to state and no agreement on what regulations should be in place. More information is available at:www.iihs.org/laws/state_laws/older_drivers.html.

Additional information & resources provided in ” Distracted Driving Epidemic,” Amazon.com

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