While it may seem discriminatory to suggest that some older motorists could constitute a danger to the driving public based solely on their age, the question is one that many traffic safety experts grapple with on a regular basis. The problem is that the older we get there is opportunity for reductions in physical strength, mental ability and reaction time, all of which can conspire to increase the chances of a traffic accident for senior citizens of advanced age. When it comes to cutting the frequency of injuries caused by auto, truck and motorcycle accidents, shouldn’t every avenue be explored?
As Maryland personal injury attorneys, I and my team of legal professionals are dedicated to assisting victims of traffic accidents in the Baltimore area, Rockville, Annapolis and even the District of Columbia. What is common for this state, as well as our nation’s capital and the balance of the U.S. is that tens of thousands of people are killed, maimed and injured in roadway collisions, many of which could be avoided or lessened in severity through improved traffic safety efforts, driver training, or vehicle maintenance.
Since injuries to victims of car and trucking-related crashes include some extremely debilitating conditions caused by closed-head trauma, neck and back injury, trauma to internal organs and other critical medical complications, efforts to reduce or eliminate the incidence of car and truck collisions should continue to be a priority.
Looking at the question of older drivers, many older drivers and other members of the general public may feel that seniors should be allowed to make their decision as to whether or not they wish to quit driving and rely on family, friends or public transportation to get around in the future. But when serious and sometimes fatal car accidents involving seasoned citizens make the front page, the debate usually starts anew.
For some older drivers, simple driving tasks, such as turning one’s head to look over his or her shoulder become more difficult. If an older motorist decides not to check completely for pedestrians or vehicular traffic simply because it’s too difficult or painful to do so, then that can be a major red flag when it comes to safety.
Already, 30 states in addition to Washington, D.C., have installed some old-age-related legislation requiring various tests specifically for seniors before they can qualify for a renewal on their driver’s license. For example, here in Maryland, a vision test is required for anyone 40 years of age or older. In many states shorter and shorter renewal periods are the norm, however the age at which the period begins to tighten up can range widely, from 59 years old in the state of Georgia to 85 years over in Texas.
Needless to say, opponents of age-based restrictions argue that the number of birthdays under one’s belt should not be the sole criteria; instead, a driver’s overall health and physical condition should be considered, especially with advances in medical science, which have extended individual’s lives more and more. Experts argue that healthy seniors are not necessarily any more prone to accidents than younger motorists. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an all-encompassing screening method to help motor vehicle licensing agencies identify potentially impaired aged drivers, especially those with subtle health problems that might still cause reduced physical capability when driving a car.
While the day has yet to come when a driver, any driver, can be fully evaluated for competency as well as capability behind the wheel, we might find some solace in the fact that fatal traffic accidents involving older drivers have been dropping more or less consistently over the last 10 years or so. The jury is still out on the specific reason(s), be it better car safety systems, improved roads or signage, or that people are generally staying healthier into old age than in generations past.
How states are dealing with older drivers, FoxNews.com, September 17, 2012