Seniors, Doctors Debate: How Old Is Too Old To Drive?
|By Linda Santacruz, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
She doesn't drive far. She calls herself a "neighborhood driver" and only travels a few miles from the Tradition of the Palm Beaches complex to the supermarket or the hair salon.
"I hardly even go to the mall anymore," Zuckerberg said. "I probably put gas in the car once a month if that. That tells you how much driving I do."
Recently, though, she said she has felt pressured to quit.
"My children have been bothering me that it's time," Zuckerberg said. "They hear all these stories in the news about people my age having trouble."
There has been a debate about whether the state should require older drivers to be retested and re-certified in order to continue driving.
Last week, an 88-year-old woman crashed into an auto shop when she hit the accelerator, speeding across
There are about 167,000 licensed drivers age 70 and over in
Fatalities drive driving debate
In 2010 TRIP, a national transportation research group, ranked Florida No. 1 in senior-related fatal crashes, even ahead of
The debate over "how old is too old to drive" usually kicks up whenever there is a fatal accident involving an elderly person.
But some worry whether vision tests are enough.
"Vision is just one of many different cognitive and physical functions that all have to work together in concert in order to allow a person to drive safely," said
The Memory & Wellness center offers a driver evaluation program where seniors are tested on visual, physical and thinking abilities needed to drive safely. A final behind-the-wheel component sums up the assessment.
"When a person's cognitive function declines, it can dramatically affect their ability to drive even in ways that they are not seeing or noticing," Wald said. "The consequences are huge. They can hurt or paralyze themselves or someone else."
"Let's face it -- it's a result of old age," McVay said. "Your senses are not like when you were younger and you're more fearful of hurting yourself or someone else."
But for others, it's hard to give up driving because they associate it with independence.
"As long as I feel comfortable, I will drive," Horowitz said. "The day I don't feel comfortable anymore behind the wheel, I will give somebody my car."
State revokes some licneses
Not everyone has the luxury of deciding for themselves.
Last year, the
"I'm almost blind in my right eye but I see just fine with my left eye," Sousa said. "I don't like this. I don't like needing my daughter to take me everywhere."
Still, in 2012, the most recent year statistics were available, drivers over 70 in
Statistics show that the vast majority of seniors are capable drivers and they have the lowest crash rates. Drivers 60 and older kill fewer pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists and occupants of other vehicles than do drivers ages 30-59, according the
"I think that people should just get checked out to make sure that they are keeping themselves safe," Wald said, explaining that there is no set age that can determine a person's driving capabilities. "It's different for everyone. But most people over the age of 70 should be able to continue driving."
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