This is the problem that doesn't go away. Media interest in consumer demographics and driving trends has a predictable ebb and flow. If a vehicle crash involves a teenager who sent or received a text message moments before losing his/her life, or taking someone else's... that's the lead story in the evening news and it will be milked for days... Until something better comes along involving a politician involved in scandal; a local singer hitting it big on a national talent show; or, anything that includes video footage of puppies or kittens.
The standard in the news business says that if you have a senior driver crashing into an ice cream store because he mistakenly hit the gas instead of the brake, the horrific reaction of store patrons is almost as good as anything with kids and animals.
And as fate would have it, last month a 100-year old man in Los Angeles backed his Cadillac into a group of children standing across from an elementary school. Four of the children were in critical condition when firefighters arrived.
According to published reports, the driver slowly backed into the group of children and parents who were buying snacks from a sidewalk vendor. Even though many of them banged on his windows and creamed for him to stop, the vehicle continued and trapped some of the children under the car.
The driver was pulling out of a grocery store parking lot and instead of backing into the street he backed onto the sidewalk according to Police Captain George Rodriguez. "The gentleman is elderly," Rodriguez noted. "Obviously he is going to have some impairment on his decision-making."
This is just the latest incident that has many of us asking: "How do we fix this?"
The Associated Press reported Monday that fatal crashes involving seniors have dropped over the past decade, perhaps because cars and roads are safer or they're staying a bit healthier, said the Insurance Institute's Anne McCartt. Yet the oldest drivers, those 85 and up, still have the highest rate of deadly crashes per mile, even more than teens. And more often than not, they're the victims, largely because they're too frail to survive their injuries.
And seniors are about to transform the nation's roadways. Today, nearly 34 million drivers are 65 or older. By 2030, federal estimates show there will be about 57 million — making up about a quarter of all licensed drivers. The baby boomers in particular are expected to hang onto their licenses longer, and drive more miles, than previous generations.
In an attempt to reduce the crash rate, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking for states to impose more frequent and consistent license screening and requirements to demonstrate driving competency. That's because right now the rules from one state to another are a ridiculous
You may recall that we brought this to your attention earlier this year...
Time to tighten license renewals for senior drivers?
Your safety on the road depends on where you live. That's because where you live determines what extra requirements, if any, older adults must meet to keep their driver's license.
Among the most strict rules: Illinois requires a road test to check driving skills with every license renewal starting at age 75 — and starting at age 81, those renewals are required every two years instead of every four. At 87, Illinois drivers must renew annually.
In Washington, D.C., starting at age 70, drivers must bring a doctor's certification that they're still OK to drive every time they renew their license. Maryland starts vision testing at age 40. Many states wait much longer... Some states like Florida allow you to go eight years between license renewals. It's not until age 80 that Florida increases the frequency of renewals to every 6 years.
Most Florida politicians are mum on the subject. That's because they think it's OK to ignore common sense if it means more votes from seniors. They mistakenly believe that all seniors favor the lenient status quo where license renewals are concerned.
What do you think? Is it time to ensure safety for drivers of all ages?