Senior Citizens as a Safety Hazard i had a general thought of the senior citizen population, that they were all losing there reflexes and vitals, making them all bad drivers. While in wawa yesterdayI have always had a general thought of the senior citizen population: that they were all losing their reflexes and vitals, making them all bad drivers. I have had experience in situations with seniors on the road, and I have also ridden in a car with one before. While in Wawa recently, I was holding the door open for the person behind me, like I usually do.
Behind me was a pretty, put together senior citizen. She had up kept blonde hair, and her face was completely made up with make- up, she started to tell me how she had just turned 80 and couldn’t believe she was still driving and functioning like she always had, nothing had yet changed for her, and neither I nor she could believe she was 80. Not all senior citizens fit the persona the youth gives them. Either they are active and keep up with society, or maybe think that they have to shut themselves off and act how they’re expected to.
As a whole, senior drivers are a safety hazard to the general population’s drivers, and should be tested more frequently to assess functional abilities. Pressure and precautions are always steered towards teenaged and beginner drivers because of the high rate of at-fault collisions and fatalities. The same can also be said for the drivers over the age over sixty-five. Drivers aged 16-20 have 1. 5 times more at-fault insurance claims, drivers 81 years old and over have 2. 5 times more at-fault claims (Globe & Mail A12).
Currently 26 states put special conditions or requirements on older drivers, such as more frequent license renewals or requiring that renewals take place in person, allowing for various tests to judge the driver’s abilities. Some ask for other restrictions, such as no night driving or driving only within a restricted area or on specific routes. More of the United States needs to follow in these examples and enforce more frequent retesting or reassessment. We rely on the government to keep us safe on the roads.
When they are not assessing a 90 year old woman’s reflexes and eyesight annually, they cannot all of a sudden want to react and make a law restricting elderly drivers when they finally see the statistics of how many elderly collisions there are, or when she kills a family, something needs to be done now, that could even slow deterioration by keeping vitals active. (Federal Highway Administration Statistics and Predictions) The number of Americans over age 65 will nearly double by 2030 as baby boomers join that age group, causing us to face a jump in senior citizens (Christian Science Monitor 8).
One of the most common problems associated with aging, is the reduced ability to drive a car safely. As motor vehiclists age there are eight driver necessary functional abilities: leg strength and general mobility, head and neck flexibility, high-contrast visual acuity, low-contrast visual acuity, working memory, visualization of missing information, visual search, and visual information processing speed (Public Roads 40). The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has developed a free online screening tool designed to measure the physical and mental abilities shown to be the strongest assets of crash risk in senior citizens.
The software tool gives seniors and families an opportunity to access the eight driver necessary functional abilities. Also AAA Foundation has developed a computer program called Drive Smart that helps drivers develop more awareness of what is going on around them on the road and react more quickly to what they see, and this is done on a computer screen game (The Christian Science Monitor). So the government sponsored organizations seem to be making progress towards making the roads and the senior drivers safer.
Not all seniors have the option of accessing these resources to improve their reflexes or access their abilities over the years of aging. Over protective families, or families who don’t have time to care for their elders, sometimes choose the path of isolation for the elderly. Although this does ensure the safety of the public and the driver, it can lead to deterioration of senior citizens. Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have found that elders who stay behind the wheel are less likely to enter nursing homes or assisted living centers, than those who have never driven or who have given up driving all together (Seniorjournal. om 2). With aging comes change, and when independence is taken away one can think that there quality of life is declining, and just give up on being an active person. Some drivers may be in denial or not even realize that their motor skills are deteriorating, and be oblivious to things going on around them. A good example of the danger of deteriorating motor skills and denial occurred in 2004 in Boone County, Kentucky. The police got a call from a passing driver that an elderly man was driving the wrong way on Kentucky 18.
Police tracked down the man, who turned out to be 83, in a parking lot and confronted him. He denied the incident. The police told the man’s family who confronted him about the incident as well. When he became very angry about the incident, the family didn’t know what they should do. So the subject was dropped and never brought up again. (Senior Citizens and Driving 2). The family of the man should have sought help in either improving his motor skills or accessing if he had any because he can be a risk to the public roads.
Elderly losing the ability to drive can poses a significant blow to seniors living in a rural city, area, or any place without good accessible public transportation for the elderly. The absence of other drivers in the home can double the risk of entering long- term care. The problem at hand of elderly people quitting driving is a challenge that not many cities are prepared to handle. According to Larry Lipman a senior reported with Cox News Service, an estimated 800,000 elderly people quit driving in the United States each year.
Millions more are limited to the time of day, types of roads, or the distance they travel and also more than 7 million Americans over 65 are none drivers already (Lipman 2). Walking and public transportation are usually not adequate options, and the idea of community- based transportation networks for the elderly are just now starting to come about. The government needs to start building upon public transportation, and gearing specific routes and buses or trains towards to elderly.
For seniors, driving helps them maintain their independence. It’s a way to keep important appointments, shop, and visit family or friends. Public transport can help make these social necessities available to senior citizens, while keeping the roads safe. When examining all aspects of senior drivers being a safety hazard to the general population it is apparent that the issue is an emotional one. There are many ways to address the problem to suit not only the needs of seniors, but also their families, and society as a whole.
Senior citizens do not need to be completely shunned by society and shut off from the public to keep others safe, but they need to be assessed in-order to provide driver safety and to better help those that are no longer safely able to be behind the wheel. It is obviously not morally correct to confiscate a senior’s license, I encourage respect for elders and many elders feel, by confiscating their license we are also confiscating there freedom. When assessing the facts and utting into perspective the dangers at hand, it would be easier for seniors to accept there are other methods of transportation available to them and see their independence isn’t taken away from them completely. States should take the initiative to recognize these hazards. There is an obvious need to make necessary changes to help all ages. I propose it is necessary for the frequent testing of seniors ages 60 and above, to test applicants of the eight crucial functional abilities of drivers. This testing is one of the steps to keep roads safer. Another step in this process would be increasing senior citizen public transportation.
This increase would provide seniors with the ability to go where they please without creating a feeling of being a hassle to family members, which many often feel is why they “need” there license. There is also another transportation option which is to give this duty of senior transportation to people on welfare, to help give back what they are given by society. Welfare users are given money; this option creates jobs as well as providing the transportation needed. Bottom line, as a whole, senior drivers are a safety hazard to the general population’s drivers, and in some way need to be assessed or aided in transportation.