In the year 2020, there will be 40 million drivers on the road over the age of 65 (there are currently only 32 million). The surge in senior citizen drivers will, no doubt, bring with it an increased number of fatal wrecks. In fact, my granny herself has a higher risk of a fatal wreck than everyone else except, of course, my sixteen-year-old brother.
So what is the country to do about the influx of senior citizens onto the roads? States are exploring options to improve driving skills of the elderly, from training programs to laws. Here are some choices…which would you find most helpful?
Create a Training Program for the Elderly
Some states are asking the elderly to engage in a training program to improve their ability to see dangers and other vehicles in their field of vision. Many have vision problems that increase their chances of getting in an accident. Unfortunately, the frail health conditions of elderly people are to blame for the fatalities—they are less likely to survive otherwise less significant accidents. Their visual field is the area that a driver can scan in just a single glance while driving, and with some training, officials think they can improve their chances of preventing an accident.
Increase Frequency of Driving Tests
Everyone with a license can see with a quick glance when they have to renew their license—and they have no doubt that it will, in fact, be renewed when they go to get it. But what if you were a sixty six year old, considered a “senior citizen” and you had to pass another driving test to renew your license. While the number of unsafe drivers would diminish, so would peoples’ freedom after a certain age. I know my 86-year-old grandfather could NOT pass the parallel parking test…there would be cones hit for sure. However, he has absolutely no trouble driving to the gym every morning where he walks three miles with his 80-something friends. This is how he has lived this long and it gives him a sense of purpose. Which leads us to the third option…
The Senior Driver Sticker
While a sticker may not seem like it can prevent an accident, it just might. In the same vein as the sixteen year old who has “student driver” on his car, a senior citizen sticker would alert other drivers to increase their patience and allow for a few more mistakes than other drivers might make. If nothing else, the senior citizen driver may experience fewer people riding their bumper, dangerously blowing past them on the highway, and otherwise bordering on road rage.
The Aware Car
Imagine if your elderly parent had a car that told them when they were too tired to be driving, or their blood sugar was too low and they needed to sip a juice box? In about 20 years the “aware” car will do just that. Made by Volvo, the Aware car will be the senior citizen’s voice of reason, and help them identify factors that may inhibit their ability to drive. The vehicle will also monitor car speeds and stats for later evaluation.
What other ideas do you have for improving the safety of senior citizen drivers, and others around them on the road?