Although it’s an incredibly difficult discussion to have, safety experts nationwide are beginning to question when aging drivers should begin to consider cutting down on the amount that they drive. Clearly, aging drivers vary in health and ability, but we will all reach an age at which eyesight, motor skills, and reaction time simply aren’t what they once were. For this reason, the National Transportation Safety Board is hosting a two-day forum on safety for the older driver population in early November.
“Today, there are more than 30 million licensed drivers in the U.S. who are 65 years or older, and in just 15 years, this age group of drivers will comprise more than 20 percent of the entire U.S. driving population,” said NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman. “The NTSB has a particular interest in learning how to reduce injury risk in car accidents for drivers in this age category.”
The statistics back up the need for increased awareness about old driving risks. In California, drivers over 60 are the second most dangerous demographic, behind only drivers under 22. Each year, the number of injuries and fatalities for drivers at each age under 22 remains constant at between 5,000 and 6,000 in California alone. The number drops significantly after 25 until age 60, when it jumps back up to 5,100 injuries and deaths per year.
And as the baby boom generation ages, the number of drivers over 60 will only increase. The US Census Bureau predicted in 2007 that there would be 9.6 million drivers over 85 in 2030, a nearly 75 percent increase from today. Other safety analysts have said that by this time, drivers over 65 will be responsible for a quarter of all road accidents.
Here at GJEL, we’re very focused on new techniques to make teenagers safer behind the wheel. That’s why we’re also interested in the decline of vision and motor skills that could harm driving ability when drivers get older. Take a look at our resource “Seniority Behind the Wheel: Managing Safety Risks for Older Drivers,” which details the physical and mental dangers of driving in old age, current laws regulating older drivers in each state, and potential alternatives to operating personal vehicles.
For such a controversial issue with real-world impact on aging drivers, we are interested to see what type of tone the NTSB will strike next month. What’s sure is that state governments can devise a system that acknowledges dwindling driver capability while respecting the freedoms these drivers have had for decades.
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