Chat with the Chief: Elderly drivers

People 60 and older should take a comprehensive, practical driving exam every two years to renew their license. 

I know some people will automatically write me off as being a bad person or an ageist for saying this but there are a lot of reasons that I have this opinion, and one of them literally ended up in my front yard this past weekend. 

Allow me to back up first though; I was planning to write this piece after I almost got T-boned in the Meijer parking lot by an elderly man that shot out of his spot with no regard for the people around him. To make it worse, he didn’t respond at all to my car horn or seem to be able to see very well over his dash board, almost clipping the cart corral a few yards down. This has happened to all of us at one point or another. 

However, what pushed me to do it this week was what happened Saturday afternoon. My boyfriend had taken our car to work and I was sitting on my couch, watching “Gilmore Girls” and getting some homework done. Then out of nowhere, there is squealing, crashing and a huge bang outside my apartment, which is in an old house. 

I ran outside to find two cars with smashed front ends scattered along my street, and one sitting about 50 feet away from my front steps with huge dents on both sides. The driver of this car looked to be in his late 70s. 

I called 911 and long story short, he suffered a minor head wound, everybody else was generally okay and all the cars were towed away within an hour or so. 

Looking at the scene though, it was clear who caused the accident. I live at the corner of an intersection with a two-way stop. The older man didn’t stop, and he got clipped on both sides by oncoming traffic. What struck me the most was when the driver of one of the cars—a driver who was going about her day and who didn’t’ do anything wrong—unloaded her child from a car seat so they could tow her vehicle away. 

This is not ageism. There are numerous studies that show that older people are more prone to cardiac issues, joint pain, slowed response time, decreased vision and hearing, loss of flexibility and reflexes and even side-effects from medication, like drowsiness. 

According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers 65 and older are more likely to get in traffic accidents than younger drivers, and furthermore, fatality rates for those older than 85 are four times higher than teen drivers. Yet all of the propaganda, hoop-jumping and exorbitant insurance rates fall on young people. 

I’m not saying that no person older than 60 should be let on the road; I completely understand the loss of freedom that is not allowing an adult to drive. We went through it with my grandmother. But having them take a ten second eye test every four years isn’t cutting it. 

I think that a practical solution is to have elderly people take the same test that teen drivers are required to take and have them do it more often to prove that they still have the ability to properly control their vehicles under the supervision of a qualified examiner.

Click here to be further chatted at by our chief.