Old people's driving rights

Why are States so reluctant to impose more restrictive controls on the driving rights of the elderly?

I have heard many, many accounts of cars driven by older people, which “suddenly lurch forward” (i.e., they hit the gas instead of the brake) and run into a crowd of people. And in many cases, at least the ones I’ve heard of, the person is not even reprimanded, while a younger, more able driver would at least be charged with vehicular homicide or involuntary manslaughter.

A cursory review of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s web documents indicates that they’re aware of the problem, but in my view they’re reluctant to recommend the revocation of driving privileges–they focus more on dementia and other extreme factors. See http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/olddrive/ .

Besides AARP pressure (pure conjecture on my part, but I imagine that the AARP does intervene in this matter), what societal or other pressures are there to continue to allow the unsafe operation of motor vehicles by the elderly?

“Where there is clarity, there is no choice. And where there is choice, there is misery. But then, why should I speak, since I know nothing?”

I suspect it’s a question of how to do it. I mean, do we just say that at a certain age, you’re too old to drive (just like you’re too young to drive before a certain age)? The problem with that is that some people are able to drive much later in life than others.

Personal story: My grandfather was still driving until a couple years ago. In fact, he was even driving around people who couldn’t themselves drive (to the airport, grocery store, etc.). He’s now in his mid-80s, I think. Anyway, at one point, he got into three minor accidents in a very short span (like 2 weeks). Nobody was hurt in any of these, but there were dents on three sides of the car. At the scene of the third, a young cop took him aside and said to him, “Look, you’ve had three accidents and nobody’s gotten hurt. But if you keep driving, you’re going to kill somebody. Will you be able to live with yourself if that happens?”

My grandfather stopped driving that day.

Kudos to your grandfather, DavidB. Not many people have the fortitude to make such drastic changes in their life, even when presented with such strong logic.

My personal feeling is that EVERYONE should be retested every 5 or 10 years or so. It’s not just the elderly who have lost their abilities.

I don’t think it was really an appeal to logic, but emotion – how he would feel if he killed somebody because of his driving.

As far as 5-10 years, that is, IMO, too long for older folks. And for us younger folks, we are supposed to be re-tested in certain cases (at least here in Illinois), although I’m uncertain as to what those cases are.

My grandfather is 84,and he can see well now that he’s had his eye surgery.Cataracts removed,contact sewn on.He did pretty well before that,although there was lots of praying going on!Once I was in a car and the guy goes,"I’m seeing double.!Fortunately,we made it home okay!

Nobody said things would be easy,and nobody was right-George Bush.

To not be able to drive is a major loss of freedom in one’s life. It would be nice if elderly people recognized when they were no longer able to drive safely and voluntarily gave up thier privelges. However, that is far easier said than done. It is an enormous mental defeat to admit that you can no longer drive safely, and it also considerably limits one’s freedom and independence.
I think it would be very reasonable to issue only one year driver’s lisences to persons over the age of, say, 65, thus requiring them to be tested every year. I think it would be grossly unfiar to set an age limit at which one is no longer eligible to drive, test or not.

“I think it would be a great idea” Mohandas Ghandi’s answer when asked what he thought of Western civilization

I don’t think sixty five is old when considering the age everyone lives healthy to in my family is 94.

How do you set the standard? Perhaps after an eye exam if the doctor thinks Mabel has problems to send a notification to her family and one to the DMV to have her called in for testing. Or after a series of health related issues ( strokes, hip replacement, heart attacks, diabetes or if they are on a ton of medication.) The doctor would have to notify the DMV to say that Chester may be “at risk” for driving, have him come in every couple of months for testing.

All in all, there is no way to tell someone to give up their independance. The pressure really relies heavily on the family and friends to say something and no one really does until its too late.

re: Lucky’s comment about loss of driving privileges representing a major deterioration in the quality of a person’s life.
How about a dramatic paradigm shift? Start designing cars so that the driver’s seat is always the most uncomfortable in the vehicle. If being the driver is converted from a privilege to a chore, older folks whose skills might not be up to it anymore can be expected to welcome the opportunity to retire from it.

Tom Berenger: “You’re not a good guy at all!”
Patrick Wayne: “I’m a LAWYER, you idiot!!”

One minor note: there is no ‘right’ to drive, it is a privilage granted by the state.

An across the board revocation of driving privileges based on age would likely not be allowed under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Age discrimination isn’t scrutinized as much as race or sex, but you can’t just pop any old age limit in without some good justification.

A restriction that would require everyone over, say, 55 to annually recertify driving ability would likely be constitutional. Desirable? Well, I leave that to the TM :slight_smile:

I do not favor an across-the-board revocation of driving privileges, based on age or any other objective factor. Simply, I was thinking about why individuals who clearly should not be on the road any more are still allowed to drive.

One case that comes to mind is Gustavo del Rio, a young boy who was run down at the Wheeling (IL) independence day fireworks display a couple of years ago… the elderly gentleman who killed him said that when he braked the car lurched forward into a crowd of people. The police did a thorough check of the vehicle and found no evidence of mechanical failure; unofficial police comments made in the media basically said that they believe he stepped on the gas, and not the brake. The gentleman was not cited for any traffic violation, let alone for the death of a person caused by his error. Soon after (or maybe it was soon before), a similar incident occurred at the outdoor unloading area of a departure gate at O’Hare Airport: an elderly person accidently accelerated into a crowd of children.

I believe, with no facts to support me, that a 20-year-old who committed a similar act of vehicular error (not even calling it negligence, as accidents do happen) would be subjected to criminal proceedings, because that error led to the loss of life.

I understand that it is a very hard thing to realize that you are no longer capable of carrying out daily tasks and that you are not self-sufficient enough to be individually mobile. However, I think that as the population ages it is necessary to establish a system to ensure that the “rest of us” are not placed in harm’s way so as to avoid a collective hurting of feelings–such as annual testing for driver’s licenses and equitable legal treatment of vehicular offenders.

Hmm. Maybe the old folk are just tired of little kids, having to take care of their grandkids ('specially when their own kid married that [insert gender here] person they didn’t like), and just want to make them all go away?

Or maybe not.

Snappy, The Crazy Toddite - Friend of Skippy

Actually, many states have more stringent driving exams for senior citizens. More frequent eye tests and what-not.

I think more can be done, actually, but it’s not like it’s ignored by any means.

Yer pal,

I have one word for you: AARP. Don’t underestimate the power of a good lobbyist. Statistically, there a lot more of them (seniors) than there are of us. And, more importantly, they vote.

PunditLisa and DSYoungEsq have both made good points. Although in DSYE’s case, he deserves to have me point it out that the word is ‘privilege’ not ‘privilage’. Live by the anal-retentive correction, die by the anal-retentive correction, sucka! :wink:

Yeah, AARP is the 800 lb. gorilla of American politics, which is why the Republican Party is so rabid about trying to pull its teeth. Also, I believe, on average most elderly have much more money than other age groups, which means more individual campaign contributions.

I think the answer in most cases is to have a law which stipulates that, if any driver receives more than X tickets in X number of months for missing stop signs or traffic lights, or turning the wrong way into a one-way street, or driving through an intersection in the left-turn-only lane, or being in any accident no matter how minor, they should be required to re-qualify. At that applies to twenty- thru fifty-somethings, too. I know old people can seem particularly bad, simply because it seems like it should be so obvious to them, but I’ve seen more than my share of every age group that drive like idiots.

I am three words for all this… Driving Miss Daisy.

Across the board age cutoffs are allowed everyday despite the seemingly derisive tone the equal protection clause puts on it. “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the priviledges or immunities of citizens of the United States; not blah blah” The basic fault in the driving case is that driving is not a priviledge or immunity of the citizens of the United States, only of the individual states which form these United States. The cases in which the 14th ammendment holds up deal with such things as segregation or education where there is a national view that the institution is inherently open to all. Furthermore, they can’t argue that an across the board age cutoff is suspect because, as was pointed out earlier, it happens on the young end too. The majority of the arguments for a minimum driving age deal with decision making and responsibility. Why is it fair for state legislatures to decide the minimum age at which a person becomes responsible and develops reasonable thinking skills but not to set a similiar universal age on the other end?

The only thing a nonconformist hates more than a conformist is another nonconformist who does not conform to the prevailing standards of nonconformity.

You can’t make across-the-board revocations based on age, because not everyone ages the same way.

You can do the same thing we do in aviation: after a certain age, you speed up the frequency of medicals (or start them, if there’s no requirement already). You can demand an annual driver’s test. There are other performance tests you can give.

Chuck Yeager is in his 70’s and still flies front-line supersonic fighter jets. Bob Hoover is close to 80, and he still flies a daily airshow routine which has to be seen to be believed.

My flying club had several active pilots in their 80’s. The oldest licensed pilot in the U.S. (Ralph Charles) is 99 years old. I suspect he can drive a car quite safely.