An Age Old Problem In today’s society automobile accidents are an everyday occurrence. Mishaps can happen anywhere at any given time. In the past ten years accidents have averaged around ten million occurring for each year (US Census Bureau). That is 100 million automobile accidents in ten years. Most people would automatically point their fingers at young drivers in today’s world.
A number of accidents are caused by teens though I believe a worse threat is starting to appear. This threat being elderly drivers over the age of 70.These elderly drivers could be considered dangerous due to their decline in sensory.
With more elderly drivers increasing over the years, drivers everywhere could be in danger. Within the next 20 years the number of elderly drivers is expected to triple in the United States (Older Drivers). To combat this the solution is simple which is to make elderly drivers retake a driver course test. Elderly drivers are not only endangering others but also themselves by driving. The fatality rate for older people is nine times higher than that of younger individuals (Older Drivers).This fact alone should prevent the elderly from driving. Their frail bodies wont withstand as much as a younger person’s would. In 1995 seniors accounted for overall 13% of all traffic fatalities.
Also contributing to 18% of all pedestrian fatalities in that year. The elderly themselves were 5% of all traffic accident fatalities in that year as well. Either being the ones who caused the accident or the ones caught in the accident (Older Drivers). Facts show that a good number of accidents involving seniors were actually caused by them.In a study conducted by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) it was shown that around 30% of accidents caused by turning left and being struck by an oncoming car (Older Drivers).
Older drivers are a danger to themselves and others at the wheel. The danger these senior drivers can be blamed on the human body’s natural aging process. Over time a decline in sensory function begins to take place due to age. The major sense the elderly begin to have trouble with is sight. A very important sense needed in driving an automobile.At the age of 70 and above vision fields begin to narrow and loss of color becomes more common in people. The decline of vision begins somewhere around the age of 40 and continues to worsen as time goes by.
The noticeable problems that could affect driving become a problem around the age of 60 (Heiting). Loss of peripheral vision could contribute to not seeing what is beside you or behind you. This could cause an elderly person to change into another lane and a car be in their blind spot. Losing the ability to distinguish colors could cause a senior to run a red light and hit another person that has the right away.The loss of vision would be devastating to one’s driving skills. Another change in the eyes that occurs around the age of 60 would be muscles around the pupil weakening.
This would prevent a person from being able to focus on objects and see clearly. Also sun light could easily blind a driver from the pupils not being able to adjust to the light intensity (Heiting). As people age into their seniority their bodies also begin to weaken.
Their bodies become frail and their muscles will not be as strong and reliable as they once were.The aging process in every human reduces strength, coordination and flexibility (Saison). All three provide a person with a safe ability to drive. If one or more is lost the ability to drive safely is diminished. Strength allows a person to effectively and quickly turn a steering wheel. Flexibility gives a person the ability to turn the steering wheel properly without restraint. Coordination allows th driver to stay on the road or in the proper lane without fail (Saison).
The body is not the only thing to weaken with the aging process.The mind also begins to weaken and work much slower with time. With this it can become more difficult for an elderly person to pay attention to the road or notice caution signs. An example would be an elderly driver not realizing the car in front of them has stopped or slowed down thus resulting in crashing into the rear of the car. Reaction time also begins to fade with the mind (Saison). Reaction time is necessary in being able to make lane changes properly and prevent possible accidents. Having a diminished reaction time could result in an accident or car fatality.In order to keep drivers safe and out of harms’ way there is a simple solution.
Make elderly drivers retake their driver’s education course to prove that they are able to drive properly. The drivers ed course isn’t simply there for one to get their license. The course teaches people of driving laws and how to properly operate their vehicle. It teaches individuals how to navigate the roads safely and prevent accidents from happening. In North Carolina there are requirements that must be met before a person is allowed to drive.
The first requirement that one must pass is an in class lesson and test. This test covers criteria on safe driving procedure, road signs, and common knowledge questions. The common knowledge questions consist of to making turns and coming to stops. There is also a vision test that must be passed in order to be able to drive (NCDriversEd). If a person can not see clearly they will not be a safe driver.
After the in class lesson has been taking a behind the wheel lesson is giving for about a week. This includes being taken out into the rural and populated parts of your area.During the session an instructor teaches the driver how to properly maneuver the vehicle (NCDriversED). From my personal experience I can say that this part of the lesson was not hard at all. It is just nerve wracking being graded on driving for the first time. After passing the in class lesson and behind the wheel session there are two more requirements to be met. The first is another written test taking at your local DMV.
The test consists of twenty- five questions on safe driving and road signs. Following the written test a driving test is giving.During the driving portion of the test an employee of the DMV rides along with you in your car giving you driving instructions on where to go.
It involves properly making right and left turns and also performing a three point turn around properly. Passing all tests will give a person the privilege to drive. Failing any portion will result in having to start over from the very beginning with the in class lesson (NCDriversED).
Making it necessary for elderly drivers to retake at least the driving portion of the educational course would be very beneficial to the safety of other drivers.This would root out older drivers that are not suitable to drive anymore. Having them take the supervised driving session would also be a great idea. The supervising driver could see how the elderly person reacts to certain situations and also see if they are physically and mentally capable of driving in a safe manner. From the information given above I hope to show others that elderly drivers are becoming a problem. Though it may not be noticeable at this time it soon will be in the future with more drivers reaching their elderly years.