Have you ever turned the wrong way on a one-way street? How about entered the freeway going the wrong direction? That’s what happened to 83 year-old Clarence Kinney yesterday, right before his pickup truck caused a multi-car accident near San Diego. Fortunately, no passengers including Kinney were hurt in the accident. But the episode raises questions about how old is too old to drive, and suggests that states should begin cracking down on privileges for older drivers.
These types of accidents aren’t uncommon. Earlier this year in Philadelphia, an 84 year-old woman caused four accidents after she drove the wrong way down the freeway. And in 2003, an 89 year-old killed 10 and injured 70 when she drove her car into a California farmers market at 60 miles per hour. Although older drivers are generally more cautious than other age demographics and obey traffic signs and signals, the unstoppable force of aging could make them unable to control their vehicles safely.
Taking the keys away from older drivers is a controversial issue, much more difficult than imposing additional regulations on teen drivers. Once one has the right to drive, it can feel like a violation of their freedoms to take it away. But more than 20 states have already implemented driving laws adding extra precautions before renewing the license of older drivers. Seven states including California, for example, require a vision test to renew one’s license after the age of 70.
The regulations are likely improve road safety, but they don’t do anything to make the transition for older drivers easier. Fortunately, family, senior advocacy organizations, and state offices can fill the gaps and provide alternate modes of transportation for people who can no longer drive safely. For additional help having the difficult conversation with your parents or arranging alternate modes of transportation for an older driver, visit our resource on the safety risks for older drivers.
Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass