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When Is Someone Too Old To Drive? [Poll]

AAA says a crash involving a 100-year-old man is a wake-up call for families to have a conversation with the aging drivers in their life. How would you handle that?


A crash involving a 100-year-old driver that injured school children in Los Angeles is a wake-up call for families to have a conversation with the aging drivers in their lives, according to the AAA.

While the nationally-publicized incident raises public concerns about senior drivers, AAA says it is a myth that seniors are among the nation’s most dangerous. Instead, AAA's Jake Nelson said just the opposite is true. 

“Recent data tells us that drivers in their 70s get into about the same number of crashes per mile driven as do drivers in their 30s,” said Nelson, who is AAA’s director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research.  “On average, drivers in their mid- to late-80s still have lower crash rates per mile driven than drivers in their early 20s, and roughly half the crash rates of teenagers — the nation’s riskiest drivers.”

But AAA notes that with 10,000 Americans a day turning 65, an increasing number of families are faced with the challenge of balancing safety and mobility for older loved ones.

“The driver’s daughter Ms. Jenkins was right that this crash was a ‘wake up call.’  We know from research that families don’t know where to turn for help or how to get the conversation started,” said Nelson. “AAA urges families to prepare now, before they get their own wake up call.”

The driver in Wednesday's crash, Preston Carter, said he lost control of his car — possibly because of brake failure with his Cadillac. Police said Carter had a valid license and neither drugs nor alcohol were a factor in the accident. Carter says he turns 101 on Sept. 5.

Carter's car went up on a sidewalk across from an elementary school, hitting 11 children and three adults. Carter said he was leaving a grocery store parking lot at the time of the accident.

Nelson said a national AAA survey shows 80 percent of senior drivers “self-police” their driving by voluntarily avoiding one or more higher-risk driving situations like driving at night or during rush-hour times of day. AAA has also found that age, on its own, is not what leads to a loss of driving skills. Instead, medical conditions that come with aging — which can affect drivers as early as in their 40s — are what commonly reduce driving ability.

To help older drivers and their families, AAA launched a website that provides free tools, resources, and expert guidance on issues related to older drivers and warning signs of a possible problem.

Here are two key warning signs cited by AAA related to older drivers:

  • A driver has been issued two or more traffic tickets or warnings in the past two years. Tickets can predict greatest risk for collision.
  • The driver has been involved in two or more collisions or “near-misses” in the past two years. Rear-end crashes, parking lot fender-benders and side collisions while turning across traffic rank as the most common mishaps for drivers with diminishing skills, depth perception or reaction time.

AAA's Senior Driving web site explains that these warning signs, however, don't always mean a driver should be taken off the road. Instead, the next steps include assessing the driver's abilities and possible impacts of medications. AAA says training programs are also available to help older drivers cope with physical changes so they can maintain their independence and mobility.

Throughout the United States, licensing policies for older adults vary. In New York, drivers must renew their driver’s licenses and pass a vision test or submit test results from a vision specialist every eight years.

Motorists may renew by mail if they submit a vision report, or they must apply in person. There are no additional requirements for senior drivers. In California, drivers 70 and older must renew their license in person. 

What do you think? Should Connecticut have any additional requirements or testing for older drivers? Tell us your thoughts on the issue in the comments section of this article.

Pieter Davelaar September 03, 2012 at 11:41 AM
I think the elderly should be cut off of driving at about 80 years old.
Tom Adamski September 03, 2012 at 12:12 PM
It's more a matter of health and physical and mental condition than age. I know a diabetic who is age 50, who has had two accidents, and has twice been found unconscious by the side of the road, and the state allows him to continue driving. Just a matter of time before he injures himself or someone else.
OxfordCitizen September 03, 2012 at 12:41 PM
My Dad is 81 and already limits himself to daytime driving as his eyesight does not let him drive comfortably at night. I believe there is likely a great disparity in the driving skills of many folks over 70. I think that answer may lie in retesting of folks 65+ on a yearly or bi-yearly basis. I think you could probably come up with an electronic simulator that would allow folks to be tested cheaply & conveniently. Folks who fail the test would then have to take an actual driving test with an instructor.
Sharon McEvoy September 03, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I think there are many from 16 to 60 who drive very irresponsible. They blow thru stop signs, cut people off, change lanes inproperly always go over the limit and get away with it all. Maybe they should be tested every year. People in general dont obey the rules of the road. They were taught better years ago. I learned from my Dad and I am 72
Justin Che Wilkin September 03, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Wow. Why did the driver kill 14 people? Also, driving at 100 years old is not very common at all. Most people don't even make it to 100. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, I saw drivers at about 110, possibly 115 years old, I forgot. Even less people make it to THAT age! Well, I DON'T want to know for ANYMORE drivers like that.
Will Wilkin September 03, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Hi Justin, Actually the article doesn't say 14 people were killed, only "hit." By googling "Preston Carter Accident" the top search reasult is this article: http://www.goupstate.com/article/20120831/WIRE/120839949 which reports that 14 people were hit and 3 children are still in the hospital but expected to recover.
Tina September 03, 2012 at 10:39 PM
I think if they take the test again and pass then they should be able to drive, the test should be given at the age of 70 and every three yrs after that.
E Twig September 03, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Tins I hope you have the same feeling when you reach 70.
Janis Hardy September 04, 2012 at 09:35 PM
How about, beginning with each license renewal after the age of 70, an individual must submit a certification from their primary care physician stating that they are physically, mentally and visually able to continue to drive. All that would cost is a piece of paper and administrative processing. If the doctor feels that the individual should restrict their driving to certain times, or to curtail their driving altogether, then it could be the physician who begins the conversation regarding their current ability (or lack of) to drive.

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