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Accidents Involving Senior Citizens Essay

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Updated: Dec 2nd, 2021

Introduction

Two weeks ago, the local paper reported an accident involving an 80-year-old driver. The elderly woman had crossed the centerline of the highway and hit an oncoming van head on. The older woman was killed. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in the other vehicle. Too often, this story plays out in communities across the nation. Older people can be dangerous behind the wheel… When young people turn 16 in most states, they must go through both a written and a performance test in order to get a permit to drive. The written test is very thorough, but most of the information has no meaning until drivers gain actual experience. The performance-based test, actually driving with an officer in the car, is more accurate. The assumption is that new drivers need to be tested. However, that same assumption is not made for people in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, or even 90’s. It is time for states to require drivers over 59 years of age to complete a competence test every five years.

Main body

Elderly drivers have experience, but they also have many handicaps that prevent them from being careful drivers. With age comes a slowing down of reflexes. Safe drivers must be able to react quickly to changes on the road. Also, most elderly people have problems with their vision. This is particularly true of their night vision. Many are hearing impaired which means problems with noticing sirens, racing engines coming up behind them, or environmental noises that might mean danger. Some senior citizens also lack focus, or mental sharpness. In fact, it is very difficult to diagnose Alzheimer’s in its early stages. Drivers without all their faculties running at capacity are scary to contemplate when they’re driving a two ton vehicle. Put all of these together, and a very dangerous combination occurs.

The lack of physical and mental alertness that handicaps older drivers is obvious to other drivers, but not so obvious to elderly drivers. Almost everyone has gotten behind a slow moving car or truck, and upon passing found that the slow driver was an old man or an old woman. Driving too slowly can be just as hazardous as driving too fast. Impatient drivers will take risks to pass a slow moving car and the results can be deadly. Elderly drivers usually don’t realize that their reflexes, their hearing, and their vision are not what they used to be. They feel a strong sense of independence and will try to drive when they are no longer safe to do so.

The remedy for this problem is to require driving tests for senior citizens. At least every five years past the age of 59, people should be required to pass a physical driving test. If there are deficiencies in the performance, these can be marked on drivers licenses. Also, elderly drivers might be required to have a younger adult in the car with them when they drive. This is like a reversal of the permit system that teenagers have to go through before they receive permanent licenses. If elderly drivers have problems with vision, they might be restricted from driving at night. Problems with mental alertness might result in restricting them from driving on interstates or at heavy traffic times. The key is to identify any physical or mental problems the drivers may have and compensate for those by either restrictions on their driving privileges or totally revoking them altogether.

The first howl of complaint will come from the elderly drivers themselves. The need to maintain an independent lifestyle is very strong in older adults. To counter this, older drivers might complete safety training at their local Triple A organizations or other safe driving schools. Generally discounts are given on insurance or on memberships for completing the training, so that should take away some of the sting. The courses run about $30 each. Additionally, some states may be reluctant to require the tests because they put an extra burden on the taxpayer. It is far cheaper to pay for more tests for older drivers than to pay out in lawsuits, increased insurance costs, and lives injured or lost. To compensate, however, fees could be charged for the tests so that the cost is borne solely by the driver. When he gets a discount on his insurance, he makes up the cost of the test several times over.

Conclusion

Surely respect for our elders means that we should keep them safe. Additionally we want to keep all drivers safe as well, regardless of age. That means the aged should not get on the road behind the wheel of a car unless they have all their physical and mental faculties. The only way to assure this is to require testing of elderly drivers before they can renew their licenses.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Accidents Involving Senior Citizens." December 2, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/accidents-involving-senior-citizens/.

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