By Robert Lake
Often during your workweek you’ll see an elderly driver in a four-wheeler attempting to make a left turn. And most of you will take extra care as you share the road.
Experienced truckers know that sometimes an elderly person behind the wheel may be as erratic as a teenager and will take appropriate safe driving measures. What you might not know is that drivers older than 85 are four times as likely to die in a car crash than middle-aged drivers. And seniors are more likely to be turning left when they are involved in a fatal crash.
Making left-hand turns requires quick thinking and strong reflexes, something some seniors may lack for any number of reasons, perhaps a physical problem, illness or medications.
Peter Kissinger, president of the AAA Foundation, says as the population ages, this vulnerable group represents a major health problem. It’s estimated that one in five Americans will be 65 or older by the year 2030. A newly released study, “Older Driver Involvement in Injury Crashes” finds that older drivers are more of a danger to themselves than to others. Drivers older than 65 are nearly twice as likely to die in car crashes as drivers 55-64, and the potential for left-hand turn crashes is 50 percent higher for 85-year-olds.
Some states, such as Florida, require drivers 80 years and older to take a new vision test. In Illinois, drivers aged 81-86 have to renew their license every two years, and those who are 75 and older must also take a road test. AARP says states should concentrate on roadway enhancements, more driver training and counseling and driver rehabilitation following a stroke or heart disease.
But for truck drivers, along with cell phone-using drivers, enraged drivers, teenage hot shot drivers, distracted drivers and drivers who don’t know how to drive around trucks, elderly drivers are another potential problem on a long list.
Finally, if your grandparents or parents are suffering from health problems that seem to impair their driving, be sure they are evaluated by their physician to determine if they will be safe on the roads. AAA’s Kissinger says it’s vital for seniors to periodically have their driving performance reviewed.
Not all senior drivers are a danger. But some are. They are also someone’s loved ones, the heart of a family, and they are at a higher risk to die on the road than anyone else. Drive like they were your grandma or grandpa out for a spin.