It’s fortunate for road safety that every state has a minimum age at which teenagers receive their drivers’ license. Before teenagers reach that age, they are simply not developed enough to drive a car skillfully and accept the responsibility that comes with driving a motor vehicle. But there’s no limit on when a safe driver begins to lose the skills and mental capacity necessary for remaining safe behind the wheel. Even if a senior driver begins to lose his or her eyesight and motor skills, most states don’t currently provide guidelines on when it’s time to stop driving.
Some recent senior driver accidents have emphasized the importance of helping aging drivers get off the road gracefully. In early February, 83 year-old Clarence Kinney turned the wrong way on a freeway, causing a massive multi-car accident near San Diego. Fortunately, no passengers were hurt by the accident, but that’s not always the case. In 2003, for example, an 89 year-old killed 10 and injured 70 when she drove through a California farmers market at 60 miles per hour.
Generally, senior drivers are safer and less likely to take risks than other age demographics. But even safe drivers become dangerous when their eyesight and motor skills begin to fade. A few states have begun to implement laws to catch these drivers before they cause an accident. California, for example, stipulates that drivers over 70 cannot use a mail-in license renewal. Maryland goes even further, requiring a vision test at every renewal past the age of 40. Check your state’s law for older drivers and consider having the conversation about handing over the keys with an aging parent or friend.
If a family member or friend decides to continue driving, he or she can still take a few simple steps to stay safe behind the wheel. Take a look at our senior driver safety checklist. We also welcome stories about your experience with senior drivers. Join the conversation with GJEL on Facebook and Twitter.