A CRASH COURSE FOR THE ELDERLY
July 17, 2006
Given their great, and frequently proven, capacity to do harm, drivers should be required to take a continuing driver education course every 10 years, says Andrew L. Haas, an orthopedic surgeon.
Special emphasis should be placed on elderly drivers:
- Motor-vehicle injuries are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among 65- to 74-year-olds and are the second leading cause, after falls, among 75- to 84-year-olds.
- Older drivers have a higher fatality rate per mile driven than any age group except drivers under 25.
- The American Medical Association estimates that as the population of the United States ages, drivers aged 65 and older will eventually account for 25 percent of all fatal crashes.
Accordingly, it makes sense to recertify drivers at age 65 and require subsequent recertification, based on road testing, every five years thereafter. Yet only two states, Illinois and New Hampshire, require road tests for older drivers -- and those only after age 75. Some states actually reduce requirements; in Tennessee, licenses issued to drivers over 65 do not expire.
More than 40,000 people die in auto accidents each year. Well over two million more are injured, some quite severely. In July 2003, an 86-year-old driver plowed through a crowd in Santa Monica, Calif., killing 10 and injuring dozens. Yet here we are three years and many tragedies later, and nothing has been done, says Haas.
Continuing medical education and board recertification are inconvenient and time-consuming, but doctors recognize that they benefit the profession and society. The nation's 199 million drivers should receive the same level of attention that the nation's 900,000 doctors do, says Haas.
Source: Andrew L. Haas, "A Crash Course for the Elderly," New York Times, July 17, 2006.
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