I read an article recently in my local community newspaper, The Reporter. In the article it tells how, as we age, our driving skills lesson. This can be very dangerous to the seniors as well as other people on the road. Here, in Ocean County NJ, they are offering a defensive driving class. It is an eight-hour course that is open to the public for an $8.00 fee. Participants will be eligible for a 5 percent insurance discount as well as a two point reduction off of their driving record. This class is held three to four times a month and gives information that will be useful to drivers of all ages. They will re-enforce everything that was learned when we first took our tests to initially receive our licenses.
The article goes on to explain how, over time, our vision begins to change. By the age of 40, most people are having their eyes checked and being tested for needed reading glasses. This is just one of the things that can pose a hazard on the road.
Another risk factor is medication. Some medications have warnings on them about operating machinery or causing drowsiness. The older we get, the more illness we have, the more medications we will need.
Distractions are also found to be a major problem today. From everything to cell phones, to changing stations on the radio, to eating or drinking while behind the wheel. With so much activity inside the vehicle it may be harder to concentrate on the roadway.
The Traffic Safety representative states that sometimes it may be necessary for a senior to give up their driving priveleges. Some examples he gives are when they can’t keep a lane position or not being able to keep up with the flow of traffic. He says that sometimes seniors can be found driving in the wrong lane. Sometimes they get confused and might step on the gas peddle instead of the brake. There have been many instances when a senior has done this and driven straight through the front of a store.
In the state of New Jersey a driver can be called in for retesting, which is done based on the recommendation of a police officer or judge. This can also be done by the request of family members or a physician providing justifiable cause.
According to the article, Dalvin Palmer, spokesperson for an AARP Driver Safety Program, pointed out statistics that show a dramatic rise in driver deaths per mile driven after age 75. The increase occurs in part because of loss of hearing, vision, reaction time and flexibility, which can contribute to serious accidents.
In my opinion, I believe it should be mandatory that everyone be retested and given physicals once they reach a certain age. A driver applying for a CDL must have a physical in order to operate their vehicle safely, without being a risk to others on the roadway, I think the same should apply to those who are aging. With all of the different factors associated with aging, I think we all will be safer on the roads if the state took a more active approach. The laws are getting more strict where new drivers are concerned, now they need to start directing their attention to the elderly.