By on November 10, 2010

America’s Baby Boom generation turns 65 next year, which means it’s only a matter of time before America’s roads are clogged with self-satisfied drivers in total denial about their rapidly deteriorating vision, reaction time and decision making abilities (Gosh, is there anything as satisfying as generational bashing?).  Everyone knows that old drivers are bad drivers, but they’re also more likely to be injured due to their physical frailty. Drivers over 70 are three times as likely as those aged 35-54 to sustain a fatal injury in a crash, and the National Transportation Safety Board is worried enough about the prospect of an aging demographic bulge to hold a conference on the topic in DC. According to the DetN, conversation there centers on a number of potential measures for curbing the impacts of aging drivers, including “Michigan lefts,” which move left-hand turns out of major intersections, traffic circles, and improved safety equipment like inflatable seatbelts. But the real elephant in the room is restrictions on licensing, including mandatory eye testing, restrictions on license renewal by mail, shorter renewal periods, and even additional testing for drivers over a certain age.

Needless to say, Americans tend to think of driving as a right rather than a privilege, but if states restrict license rights for new drivers, there’s no question that senior drivers should face some kind of oversight. Especially in the context of tragedies like the Santa Monica Farmers Market incident. But how much? And what kind? And at what age?

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37 Comments on “NTSB Identifies Major Road Hazard: Aging Baby Boomers...”


  • avatar
    AAmanda

    I work for an insurance company, and I am constantly dealing with old folks saying that “someone came out of nowhere” and hit them.  It’s frustrating.
    I’m a firm believer that any over 65 should have to take the license’s test at least every five years.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      A diabetic driver lost control of her car and wiped out an entire family (mom, dad and baby) who were walking on the sidewalk in front of the Santa Clara library a couple of years ago.  Since it was an ‘accident’ the driver didn’t lose her license and is presumably still driving. She was under 65 – so it is not just age, but any debilitating condition that needs to be taken into account.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    How about weight/power restrictions for aged drivers with moderate degrees of impairment. Weller would have done alot less damage if he had been in a yaris or a smart fortwo rather than a Buick Lesabre.
    It’s really easy to say that old folks shouldn’t be allowed to drive if they aren’t able to, but that’s all stick and no carrot. Our country is not laid out in a way that makes existence without a car easy or even possible in most places. If we were Japan, and no one lived more than a block or two from the nearest train station that would be one thing, but people gotta get to the grocery store somehow.

  • avatar
    mikey

     I was born in 1953 and have logged millions of miles. I’ve driven everything from 55 Fords to a 50K. BMW [drunken relative,long story]. Forty years of driving in all kinds of conditions. You canot teach that sort of experience.  I make a concience effort. whenever I’m behind the wheel, to not be an “old guy”.

     That being said. My night vision isn’t what it used to be. So I drive less at night. I used to have a “two beer” limit. Now I cab it, or walk. I hope, to be able to maintain my driving skills for a long time yet. But who will be the judge of that? Me?…I don’t think so.

    We need mandatory,and comprehensive retesting by 65 at the latest. I personally don’t want to find out that I’m too old,after I’ve killed or maimed someone.

     So who wants to be the first politicion to stand up and say,what we all know to be true. We need to do something,and do something soon, to address the old driver problem.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      So who wants to be the first politicion to stand up and say,what we all know to be true

      Whoever they are, they’re likely to have no real ambition and a secure pension because you can be damned sure they won’t be re-elected.

      Hey, it’s true.  Angry old folks just enabled an effective regime change in the US because young people are too busy, disinterested or disenchanted to try.  The turnout is something like 10-30% lower.

      Moral of the story: if you want old people tested frequently (and rich people taxed fairly, and education taken seriously, and the environment not shat on), compulsory voting is really the only way to go.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @psar ….Your right dude, political suicide. But you drive the same roads I do everyday,and you KNOW just how a big a problem this is. Its only going to get worse if somebody doesn’t address it.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      @mikey
       
      Driver inattention is the second-most-important reason I park it in Oshawa or Peterborough these days (the first being that I can get things done, especially now that GO trains have 110V sockets) instead of hauling down the 115 or 401.  I’ll still do it if I can’t make the right train or bus, or if it’s late, but I’ve been nearly squished a few times, and not always by greybeards or bluehairs.
       
      But yes, putting the screws to older folks is suicide: they have more money, more influence and more time.  The young have, what, more Facebook friends?  As much as I’m an admirer of social networking, it doesn’t count for squat in this game.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      A little reality here…
      DUIs.
      Texting.
      Driving uninsured.
      Driving without a license.
      Red light running.
      Group stupid.

      These are not the characteristics of the elderly.
      They ARE the habits of the young, of which you and this report are not pointing fingers at.

      Taxing the rich fairly?
      How do you answer the point that you can earn an income in the US without having a job?
      Are you at all aware of the tax paid by the rich vs, well…anybody else?

      I am a little confused as to where these statements come from.
      Two years ago, I sold part of my business to another company.
      The government took 42 percent of the settlement.
      42 percent of my sale went to the government.
      Now once again, please explain how this near 1/2 take on my 35 years of work is/was fair?

      My god, the world is mad.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      +1 Trailer Trash
       
      1.  Bad driving increases at both ends of the age spectrum.  But at least the average older driver is aware of his or her limitations… just ask them and they will give you a list.   Young drivers who weave through traffic while texting, however, could benefit from this humility.  They are twice as dangerous IMO, because they don’t know half as much as they think they do. I used to be one of them.
       
      2.  “Fair” taxation, which I presume to mean “stealing from the rich to give to the poor”, is a matter of opinion.   I see nothing fair or democratic or sustainable about a society in which the majority can force the minority to pay their way for them.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I think technologies like presafe and lane departure warning are going to be a huge help as the political will is never going to exist to take the elderly off the road at anything approaching a reasonable point.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    This nonsense must stop.
    OK, great… older people are not as sharp as they used to be.
    But they are more experienced.
    Younger people have all their skills, just no experience and are, well…stupid.

    I offer this…BETTER all around driving test to keep ALL IDIOTS off the road.
    Not just the older drivers, but even stupid house wives, teenagers and punk males whose seats are pushed back into the gangster position.

    Make EVERYBODY take harder test and more often.  How about retesting driving skills every 5 years?
    How about enforcing speeding tickets?
    How about enforcing the 3 strikes your out?

    If there are laws that do not get enforced…why pick on the elderly. The one group that obeys the laws.

    • 0 avatar
      stryker1

      “keep ALL IDIOTS off the road.”
      Does that include the graying guy ahead of me in the new Shelby GT doing 5 below the speed limit?

    • 0 avatar
      william442

      It should, and it should include me in my AMG if I do that. Anyone who thinks this is not a problem should visit the west coast of Florida. I’m 71.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      stryker1

      driving below the speed limit doesn’t make you an idiot.

      you’ve got to admit the problems of the road are not the elderly.
      the red light running,, drunk driving, driving uninsured, driving without a license, the texting, the goup stupid…these are all trademarks of the young.

      all i am asking for is a little common sense when we discuss these things.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      “keep ALL IDIOTS off the road.”
      Does that include the graying guy ahead of me in the new Shelby GT doing 5 below the speed limit?
       
      Wow, 5 mph under the limit and you’re seething with rage.  I suppose it will be the gray-haired guy’s fault when you pass him in a blind curve with your middle finger in the air and you take out an oncoming minivan?

      People, these are public roads… not a personal amusement park. Learn to get along.

    • 0 avatar
      itsgotvtakyo

      Assuming conditions are bright, clear and dry, if you’re not going at least the speed limit on a single lane road you’re being an a**hole. This doesn’t excuse someone for driving aggressively and unsafely behind you but I can definitely sympathize. If you’re doing it on a multi-lane road and you’re in the furthest left hand lane your car should be impounded and you should lose your license. Careless and inattentive drivers cause accidents, not speed.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      How about actually removing those who have proven they aren’t capable of driving from the road?  First at-fault fender-bender?  License suspension for a month.  Second?  Three months.  Serious vehicular damage?  Six months.  Serious injury?  Two years.  Death?  Lifetime ban from driving.  Driving while suspended?  Fine and jail until the suspension is up.
       
      I don’t care whether the driver is drunk, high, old, or just incompetent, the result is the same and so too should be the punishment.

  • avatar
    zigpenguin

    This is one of my favorite arguments for good public transit and good city design. If people can walk or take the train or take the bus and get places in a timely manner, then you can have higher standards for driving licenses.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      Everyone should be required to live in an urban environment? What about those of us in rural areas? I do agree about higher standards, but public transit will never be practical for all in North America.

    • 0 avatar
      zigpenguin

      You have a good point, which is that the level at which these requirements are generated is the state level. States encompass both urban and rural areas. So, even if urban areas have good public transit, we would not be able to impose more stringent licensing standards.
       
      I do think that having public transport available in urban areas would change the application of the law in urban areas (and generally, traffic is a more urban problem). When a drunk driver comes before a court in an urban area, the judge has more leeway to take away the license if there are public transport alternatives.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @ william442….My first trip to Florida I was warned by the rental car people,to be aware. Thirty years later I don’t need to go to Florida to see it. Its scary enough right here in Ontario. I’m 57 next month.

  • avatar
    findude

    I’m at the tail end of the baby boom, but I already have a plan to retire in an urban setting where I can walk to most of my destinations and use public transit most of the rest of the time.  Yes, I’ll still have a car and I’ll use it occasionally, but I know the day will come, sooner or later, when it will make no sense for me to drive.  For anybody who lives long enough, this is as certain as the requirement to live in a place that either has no required stairs.

  • avatar
    newfdawg

    None of our professional politicians will propose any kind of mandatory testing for drivers 65 and older for fear of being voted out of office.  You can be sure if any politician does attempt this the shills at the AARP will scream bloody murder for infringing on their “rights”.  I definitely believe there needs to be some type of program aimed at older drivers, but the state I live in is so financially strapped I don’t know where they’d get the funds.  The federal government? Doubtful.
    There is no public transportation in the city where I live, unless you include the taxi service, and
    the Transportation service operated by the county for senior citizens.  The bus service (such as it was) ended years ago.  I suspect this situation will have to reach crisis proportions before somebody addresses it.

  • avatar
    obbop

    OH MY GAWD!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    It took me a few seconds longer in my oh-so important life to arrive at my destination due to another driver not exactly matching the maximum legal speed allowed!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    That attitude scares me more than most attitudes I can confront upon a motorway.

    • 0 avatar
      itsgotvtakyo

      I agree that tailgating, flashing of the high beams and generally aggressive behavior on a single lane road is rude, inappropriate and unsafe, but so is occupying the furthest left lane on a multi-lane road or highway and refusing to yield to vehicles that want to travel faster than you do. The actual speed limit is irrelevant, you yield to faster traffic. “Asserting” yourself in the left lane by traveling at or below the speed limit shows wanton disregard for other drivers and ultimately poses more danger than going 10-20 miles over the speed limit ever will.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I agree that tailgating, flashing of the high beams and generally aggressive behavior on a single lane road is rude, inappropriate and unsafe . . .
       
      And useless.  Is there anyone who doesn’t ease off the throttle in that situation just for the joy of pissing the guy off even more?

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    The anti-driving coalition has the Goldilocks approach to driving:
    Young people are too inexperienced, middle aged folks are greedy and spend excessive amounts on cars and gas, and old people are too impaired by age. Their solution, let’s tax and regulate people out of their cars to solve all these issues of transportation that are nearing crisis.
     
    Any young person unmotivated to vote is a de facto vote of ‘none’. Fortunately, older and wiser voters outweigh the mental midgets who get their news from Comedy Central.
     
    Advancements in night vision and collision avoidance will extend driving years and that is a good thing.
     
     

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      obbop and FleetofWhee

      ++
      You just lowered my blood pressure after reading some of the crazy thinking above.
      Thanks…

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Let me add  my own ++.  The individual anecdotes are useless. You can add them to any topic for filler, but they don’t add to the discussion.  I, too, am surprised at some of the suggestions above, based on their personal experiences that can be very limited.
       
      My own personal experience (licensed driver since 1964, delivery driver for six years, highway engineer for 30) is that any judgement of driving ability has to be on a case-by-case basis. A state can, and should, have stringent license (and renewal) standards, but they have to be applied to everybody to work. The young and inexperienced, the middle-aged who have acquired bad habits, and the elderly who may have physical/mental impairments are all potential safety hazards.
       
      My second point is a response to the last paragraph.  The reason Americans tend to think driving is a right and not a privilege is because it’s true.  It’s a free country, and Americans have the right of freedom of movement, by whatever means they choose. Whether you choose to walk, drive or cycle, or even ride a horse, you’re subject to traffic laws, and restricted in a number of cases, but those just laws and reasonable restrictions are based on public safety alone. In a democracy, it’s not the government’s job to dispense privileges, only to protect our rights by enacting reasonable measures to, as Jefferson put it, “prevent men from hurting one another”.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    You learn something new every day.
    http://www.michiganhighways.org/indepth/michigan_left.html

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    I am a 65-year-old who strongly favors more testing of elderly drivers. (I also believe that going through the equivalent of Bondurant should be a prerequisite for driving on anything faster than a city street.) The big problem with elderly drivers is mental, not physical, deterioration. When they go the wrong way on the interstate, it’s because they can’t figure it out, not because they can’t see the signs clearly.
     
    In my state, if you forgot to renew your license before it expired or had a moving violation, you have to pass an office test to get renewed. The test consists of a vision test and a paper or computer test on the state driver’s handbook. Making such a test mandatory for everyone over a certain age and renewing the license for a shorter period should handle most cases. The people who can’t figure out which way to go on the interstate will fail the test because they can’t figure out how to take it much less answer the questions correctly.

  • avatar
    itsgotvtakyo

    As for the old people, test them every two year after 65. While we’re at it there should be required testing for all drivers every five years. It’s a crime that getting a license in this country is so easy and an even bigger one that keeping it is even easier. Speed doesn’t cause accidents, inattentive, careless driving does.

  • avatar
    RatherRipped

    You shouldn’t be allowed to drive if you can remember when there weren’t any cars.

  • avatar
    Highway27

    The existence of other hazards on the road doesn’t obviate the need to deal with *all* hazards.
     
    I don’t think a law is ever going to be passed (and as an anti-government type, I really wouldn’t want a law passed).  What needs to change is the lack of insight as to knowing that your driving skill has diminished.  This is just like the change that happened with drunk driving.  30 years ago, it was still not considered a problem to have a few and drive home, or even get ‘one for the road’.  Yes, there were drunk driving laws, but the reason that the incidence went down is because people realized it was the wrong thing to do.  Texting while driving won’t change because of an unenforceable law, it will go down when people realize it is the wrong thing to do.  Seat belt usage didn’t go up because of laws.  It went up because more people realized and understood that it was the right thing to do.
     
    So if we help empower people to stand up to stubborn old people, and say “Hey, you need to stop driving, because you’re a danger to yourself and to others”, and help those old people who are impaired and dangerous to understand that they aren’t just as good a driver as before, and that experience can only take you so far, and quickly loses out to diminished motor control, diminished vision, and diminished reflexes and increased reaction time.
     
    We see that kind of attitude in some of the posts in this thread.  Planning on where to live to be prepared for when they are not able to drive.  More of that is needed.  It doesn’t need to be in an urban location.  It doesn’t have to be a ‘nursing home’.  Senior living is exploding in my region, and it’s a great solution: having well designed buildings with lots of services provided and communities that help resist isolation.
     
     


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