NTSB Identifies Major Road Hazard: Aging Baby Boomers

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
ntsb identifies major road hazard aging baby boomers

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?

Join the conversation
4 of 37 comments
  • Kendahl Kendahl on Nov 10, 2010

    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.

  • Itsgotvtakyo Itsgotvtakyo on Nov 10, 2010

    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.

  • RatherRipped RatherRipped on Nov 11, 2010

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

  • Highway27 Highway27 on Nov 11, 2010

    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.