NTSB worries about increasing number of older drivers

By 2025, a whopping one in five licensed drivers will be 65 years of age or older, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

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Advancing technology will probably help make older Americans better drivers, but at some point many of us will lose the ability to drive safely.

On Today’s Question we asked this: “Should older drivers have to take extra tests or exams?” The answers, both on MPRnews.org and our Facebook page, were mostly along the lines of yes, heck yes, dang straight. Here is a sampling of the answers:

Christy says,

“My 85-year-old Grampa won’t listen to any of his children or grandchildren when we tell him he really shouldn’t be driving anymore. His vision is fine, but his mind and reaction time aren’t as sharp as they once were. His pride is stronger than his self-awareness. My grandmother with Alzheimer’s didn’t lose her license until a cop spotted her absentmindedly circling a parking lot for 20 minutes, and followed her home. This was months after she drove right through her own garage door.”

Colleen writes,

“I live by a retirement community. Their driveway intersects the sidewalk. Can’t count how many close calls I’ve had while running and riding my bike by there. I constantly preach to my son to be extra extra careful riding by the retirement community.”

Some people feel like targeting older drivers for more tests is discriminatory, however. Deb says,

“Just like younger drivers there are older drivers of all abilities and alertness. I’m not sure extra driving tests for only older drivers will be anything other than a method to target them.”

  • Ben Chorn

    The point of testing will be to see if someone is alert enough to drive…. how is this any different than a sobriety test?

  • Tom

    If the research is out there to support a certain demographic being more at risk for driving accidents and we are able to understand why, then some action needs to taken to protect the rest of the populous. As with young, new drivers, studies have shown this to be the case and rules about permit length and graduated drivers license have been instituted. I see no reason, given what we know about the effects that can occur during the natural progression age, that some sort of testing would not be done. I know not all experience these issues, but I would argue that not all teenagers mature at the same rate either, though they are all subject to the same laws. Just a thought.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Lies, damned lies, and statistics. Like ulcers, accidents are often caused by those who don’t suffer the immediate consequences. And yes, ban cell phone use while driving for everybody, be they 3 or 103. Also ban noise polluting Harleys. And ban those earth shaking ultrasonic bass speakers used by those young whipper snappers who wouldn’t know good music it it bit em in the butt.

  • Caitlin

    We spend lots of time hysterically flipping out about teenage drivers, so it seems reasonable to flip out about the other end of the spectrum. Having worked in a retirement community & having wondered about whether we would all make it to our destination with various of my grandparents’ behind the wheel in the last couple of years has given me many strange experiences. Not only is the reaction time slower, but having experienced an older driver suddenly get tired of waiting at a red light & just driving through before it turned green reminded me eerily of a girl I knew in high school who got a ticket for pulling just such a stunt.