License Restrictions for Elderly Drivers
Every year, there are many accidents involving motor vehicles. With different age groups, there are different factors involved with the cause of the accident. In the age group of 65 years old and older, diminishing reaction times, medical issues, and changes in vision are some of the major causes. Moon stated it best when she said “driving is an over learned, yet complex activity that requires intact visual, cognitive, and motor skills to accurately and timely respond to a constantly changing environment” (1341). While people in this age group drive less miles and in better driving conditions, they are still causing automobile accidents at a higher rate. With their age and physical condition, even the smallest accident can cause great harm or even fatalities. This issue is hazardous not only for the driver but for everyone else that is in the car. This is also an issue for the community that the driver commutes through. At the age of 65, their driver’s license should expire and cannot be renewed until a passing reaction test, vision test, and medical clearance from their doctor is provided.
As people get older, they physically undergo change due to wear and tear. Things such as movement of their neck, the time it takes to push the brake pedal, and vision can be distorted or limited at times. These are not the only limiting factors when it comes to elderly driving, but these are some of the main ones that can tremendously increase the chance of an automobile
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accident. Prior and current medical issues can also play a part in creating unsafe conditions for a driver. Medical diagnosis such as Parkinson’s disease or restrictions caused by a previous stroke, can have a negative impact on driving as well (Older para 4). In studies conducted by Prevent Blindness America, it was found that the elderly is twice as likely to be involved in an automobile accident than those that were middle aged (Geriatrics para 1). This is an alarming fact when you take into consideration that the elderly has less licensed drivers and travel shorter distances when compared to the middle aged (Mathis and Lucas 650).
Independence and freedom to move around as you please are important for everybody. People at 65 years old are still working and need to drive to make ends meet. Others are retired but still live active lives that require them to drive on a daily basis (Rosenbloom 393). Everyone has errands to run and medical appointments requiring them to travel distances further than they can walk. The privilege of driving should not be taken away but going through a couple additional tests should not hinder them either. The vision and reaction tests can be set up in the local Department of Motor Vehicles office where you would renew your license. Most already visit their doctor regularly so getting a medical release would not cause additional work. The only way a driver’s license would not get renewed is if an issue is found from one of the tests or from the doctor. If that is the case, getting the issue resolved would improve the driving ability for that person.
Requiring everyone age 65 and older to get annual tests for vision, reaction times, and medical clearance is very important. Many elderly drivers take to the roads during daylight and mainly through side streets, avoiding highways. This causes them to drive through local neighborhoods and also in shopping centers to run their errands. This can be dangerous for anyone crossing the road or walking in a parking lot when that driver fails to stop in time. These are areas that can include small children and pets. If the driver has limitations to their vision, they may not see them. These are all real hazards to people with slower reaction times or issues with their vision. They may not know they are having these issues until it is too late. Identifying these issues prior to an automobile accident is the goal, reducing the number of injuries and fatalities.
Safety should be the top priority for everyone even if it takes additional work and time to achieve. This is important to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Even the smallest fender bender can become fatal for older drivers. Failing the vision test may only require a new pair of glasses, making them a safer driver immediately. This is a simple and easy fix which can pay great dividends by saving a life. It has been found in studies that people will continue to drive as long as they can, even if they start to have difficulties or start to feel that it is becoming dangerous (Rosenbloom 394). This is the main reason that these additional requirements will contribute in decreasing the number of automobile accidents and make safe driving a priority amongst drivers age 65 and over.
By requiring and enforcing these simple tests and procedures to everyone 65 years old and older, the number of injuries and fatalities while operating a motor vehicle can be reduced. Many of these injuries and fatalities are situations that are preventable. While it may seem restrictive and a hassle for some, safety is not a matter you can ignore. Enjoying our everyday freedoms, even into our late 60s, is important and should be available to all. By making small changes and more frequent testing, certain situations can be caught and treated before it is an issue. This may even help in other activities the elderly may enjoy doing!