On Saturday afternoon 92-year-old motorist Levon Arkelian was cited for failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk after he struck and injured two 14-year-old boys who were crossing Fifth Street West at Sassarini Elementary School. Neither alcohol nor speeding played any role in the collision, and the driver claimed he simply didn’t notice the boys using the crosswalk.
According to witnesses, the crosswalk’s yellow flashing lights were illuminated at the time of the accident. Now, based on Arkelian’s inability to see the boys in a highly conspicuous crosswalk, police have referred him to the DMV for priority reexamination to determine whether he should still be eligible to possess a license.
This incident highlights an issue we’ve discuss before: how do you manage safety risks for older drivers? As the population of Americans over the age of 65 is expected to grow approximately 60 percent by 2025, finding ways to monitor or reevaluate drivers who might not have the same abilities and reaction times they used to will be a significant challenge.
Although 28 states and the District of Columbia currently require some type of additional testing for elderly drivers, Illinois is the only state that requires an actual road test after the age of 75. However, despite differences in the types of accidents elderly drivers are typically involved in (e.g. significantly fewer drunk driving accidents), those over the age of 75 are just as likely to have an accident (on a per mile basis) as drivers under the age of 24.
Could this latest incident have been avoided if California had stricter testing in place for elderly drivers? According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety the answer is maybe, maybe not.
In fact, in a tiered screening test that was pilot tested in California, “There was no evidence of a reduction in crash risk subsequent to participation in the pilot and only weak evidence of a reduction in subsequent at-fault injury and fatal crashes.” The real question is whether or not states can determine an effective way to “identify people at high risk of crash involvement without falsely identifying other drivers who are not at high risk.” And, right now they cannot.
On the bright side, there’s ample evidence that many elderly drivers are self-limiting their mileage as well as the times of day they’ll drive. Additionally, resources like our safety checklist and self-assessment are available to older drivers attempting to determine whether they might be at increased risk for an accident.
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/drdul/177243801/