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Car accident in California renews questions about elderly drivers

Posted on in Car Accidents

New questions have arisen about the safety of permitting elderly motorists to continue driving, following an incident in which a 100-year-old man drove into a crowd of people near a Los Angeles elementary school. Elderly drivers are often blamed for more car accidents, according to experts who cite accidents across the nation -- many of them fatal. 

Many states already have some significant requirements to ensure the safety of elderly drivers and others on the road. California is no exception. The state requires all drivers older than 70 to renew their driver's license in person, rather than doing so online or through mail applications. Vision exams, supplemental driving tests and other requirements may also apply, especially if a doctor or family member questions an elderly driver's ability to operate a vehicle.

The 100-year-old driver who struck 11 people in California did have a valid license. Even though some people might contend that the increased regulations worked during the 30 years after the man's 70th birthday, it appears that the requirements did not prevent this accident.

Considering the fact that more baby boomers are aging, auto safety experts say more elderly people will be on the roads in the next decade than ever before. This could be an increased danger for drivers throughout the nation.

Senior citizen groups have contended that age should not be considered a direct correlate of driving safety. They say that mandatory tests should apply to everyone, not just seniors, because such legislation is discriminatory. Boomers are more likely to press their rights in this way, largely because they are a massive voting demographic.

Older people do have physical limitations, including motion-based vision required for reading moving street signs and other notifications. This is undeniably true, based on statistical evidence. This debate is sure to continue as the number of senior citizen drivers in the country rapidly grows in the next several years.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor, "Driver hits 11: Are elderly drivers making roads unsafe?" Aug. 30, 2012

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