Older Drivers on the Road - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

7/29/03

Older Drivers on the Road

Two drivers over the age of 80 recently plowed into farmer's markets on either coast. The debate has begun again in many states. If there is a lower age limit to get your driver's license, shouldn't there be an upper age limit as well?

Opponents point to the statistics. Older drivers cause fewer accidents than younger drivers. They omit that older drivers also drive fewer miles and actually have a higher rate per miles driven.

One study found that three quarters of seniors over the age of 75 could be considered legally blind in certain types of glare. Half could not pass a depth perception test. When you consider that by 2020 one out of five will be over 65 this may be of some concern.

Comforting information comes from a study sponsored by the Hartford Financial Services Group and MIT which found that seniors are responsible and seem to know when to slow down. The study found that health caused people to limit or restrict their driving on their own.

As we get older we should be aware and make adjustments in how and when we drive. Changes in our bodies may restrict movement. Changes in vision such as cataracts may cloud our ability to see clearly under certain conditions. Macular degeneration and glaucoma may limit parts of the viewing area of the eye.

Reflexes slow down and changes in the way you think can also affect driving. Medications can dull reactions. Some older people find it difficult to do two things at once. Accidents involving older adults often involve changing lanes, making left hand turns, and entering expressways. Realizing that age can play an important role in safety is very important. Limiting driving at night, during heavy traffic conditions, and during bad weather can help reduce problems.

Taking a safe driving course may be a great idea and can sharpen abilities. The AARP Safe driving course is offered both in Lubbock and Brownfield. Call the Senior Center in Lubbock at (806) 767-2710 and in Brownfield at (806) 637-4593.

Many older adults worry about loss of freedom when they stop driving. Cabs, hiring a young person, using public transportation can all help. When you realize that keeping a car on the road costs an estimated $6500 per year, you realize that alternate transportation may not be as expensive as it appears.

As the population ages, this problem will become more and more acute. We can probably expect new laws about testing to renew licenses and possible limits on driving as the aging populations increases.

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