A report released yesterday by TRIP (PDF Link), a national non-profit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C., shows that elderly drivers are still involved in a disproportionately high number of traffic fatalities. The report also suggests that as the number of elderly drivers increases dramatically over the next decade, the U.S. transportation system will be “insufficient” to meet the mobility and safety needs of drivers over the age of 65.
Despite only accounting for eight percent of all miles driven, drivers over the age of 65 comprise 17 percent of all traffic fatalities. And, according to the TRIP report, “The population of Americans 65 and older will grow by 60 percent by 2025, at which time one in every five drivers will be over the age of 65. Because of good nutrition, improved health care, better education and higher incomes, new generations of older Americans will be more mobile, healthy and active for a longer portion of their lives than those just a few decades ago.”
Compounding the problem of more elderly drivers on the road is the fact that for people 65 and over, 90 percent of their travel takes place in a private vehicle.
Within the report, TRIP outlines a set of recommendations to improve the safety and mobility of elderly drivers. The majority of the report’s recommendations focus on reducing or eliminating driving errors, and as a result would make roads safer for drivers of all ages. The recommendations are as follows:
- SAFER ROADS: clearer, brighter and simpler signage with large lettering; brighter street markings, particularly at intersections; widening or adding left-turn lanes and extending the length of merge or exit lanes; adding rumble strips.
- SAFER DRIVERS: promoting education and training programs for older drivers; evaluating and monitoring “at risk” older motorists through appropriate licensing requirements.
- SAFER VEHICLES: improving vehicles to help withstand and avoid crashes.
- IMPROVED CHOICES: ensuring public transit routes, vehicles, facilities and stops are easily accessible and accommodating to older or disabled passengers; and expanding non-traditional approaches tailored to the needs of older adults.
While TRIP’s recommendations are by no means revolutionary, the suggestion of evaluating and monitoring “at risk” older motorists will continue to be a hot topic as the number of elderly drivers climbs. As of now, licensing laws for older drivers vary greatly from state to state, with some states requiring vision tests after a certain age and both New Hampshire and Illinois requiring a road test for drivers over the age of 75 prior to renewing their license. However, as of now more than half of U.S. states have no restrictions for elderly drivers.
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