Our Opinion: Communities, families should reach out to senior drivers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 9, 2005

On Monday, the Insurance Investment Institute issued a public plea to family members and caregivers to help determine when it’s time to take the keys away from senior citizen


Increasing concern that senior drivers are a detriment to themselves and others on the roadway, in part, is driving ongoing dialogue on this issue. Skyrocketing insurance claims are also fueling discussions. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2002 there were 19.9 million licensed drivers age 70 and older in the United States, yet they accounted for 12 percent of traffic fatalities, 12 percent of all vehicle occupant fatalities and 16 percent of pedestrian fatalities. Collision rates per mile driven increase after age 70 and increase more rapidly after age 80, the I.I.I. reports.

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The I.I.I. tells caregivers to look for these signs among others to determine if the elderly should continue driving:

-Drives at inappropriate speeds; responds slowly or doesn’t notice other drivers or pedestrians.

-Fails to yield to other cars or pedestrians who have the right-of-way.

-Ignores street signs and traffic lights.

-Fails to judge distances between cars correctly.

-Becomes easily distracted; appears drowsy, confused or frightened.

-Has one or more near-accidents.

-Drifts between lanes or bumps into curbs.

-Drives without headlights on.

But while mandatory eye exams and testing are one resolve, there’s another part of the equation to consider: Many seniors have no choice but hit the road themselves for doctor’s appointment and errands, for example.

For those seniors who have reached the end of their driving days, this should not continue.

Family members should come up with a plan to ensure that their elderly loved ones’ weekly transportation needs are met. Communities should also take an interest in their elderly residents and organize car pools to assist them.

After all, it’s the least we can do to help people who have paved many of the roads we now travel.