In about twenty years from now, studies show that the number of elderly drivers (those who are 70 years of age or older) will triple in the United States. This means that the number of mature drivers will increase (Nakagawa, Park, and Kumagai, 397). There are a lot of people who argue that the elderly should not be behind the wheel. It is not so much their age that affects their driving, but the declining capabilities which render them less capable of being safe drivers on the road. Many senior citizen drivers say that they need to modify their driving habits in order to feel more comfortable on the road. This means that they claim that there are not at any more risk to be involved in a road accident as compared to other age groups. However, statistics show that older drivers are more likely, compared to younger teenage drivers, to be involved in mutli-vehicular accidents, particularly on busy roads or at intersections (Ray, Fought, and Decker, 873). This paper will discuss why the elderly should not be behind the wheel, especially if they have declining capabilities that render them to be a hazard on the road to themselves and other motorists. In the year 1997, senior citizens were responsible for (Zhang, J., et al., 289):
- 5% of injuries caused by vehiclular accidents
- 13% of traffic-related fatalities
- 13% of vehicular occupant fatalities; and
- 18% of all pedestrian fatalities.
My argument will be that my grandmother, who is over the age of seventy years, should not be allowed to drive.
There are many older drivers who believe that they are doing their very best to remain safe on the roads. They might try to avoid driving at night, they go at a speed they feel most comfortable and they avoid main roads or busy highways (Nakagawa, et. Al, 397). However, there are times when these precautions are not enough. Most of the time, it is not only the age that affects driving ability, but the bodily conditions of the senior citizens. The inability to walk without the help of a mobility device might be a sign of the inability to drive. If you know someone who is above the age of seventy and still gets behind the wheel, think about these questions (Ray, et. Al, 873):
- Is it common for other drivers to honk at them?
- Have they had minor accidents, including fender benders, because they could not gauge the distance of another object?
- Do they get lost even on roads that they visit frequently?
- Do they claim that other cars or even pedestrians come out of nowhere?
- Are other family members concerned about their driving skills?
- Do they only drive to nearby places or limit their driving because they do not feel as comfortable on the road?
If you have answered yes to any of the questions here, then your loved one might have to be assessed again for their driving ability before they get back behind the wheel. Age affects driving, not only in terms of vision. Motor skills decrease when people hit a certain age. As you get older, your joints will stiffen and the muscles will weaken. This means that checking blind spots, craning your head or even turning around will be a lot harder for the elderly to do. These are things that are necessary when on the road.
The elderly may walk or move slower than younger people. This does not only affect their daily routine, but will also greatly affect their driving ability. Their movements will be slower and less accurate when driving, making them a road hazard for pedestrians and other motorists. The vision also goes down due to age. This is due to a number of conditions. Cataracts, glaucoma, muscle degeneration and other eye conditions can affect driving abilities. It is also common for the elderly to develop tunnel vision, which limits their ability to see clearly when on the road.
Physical problems are not the only thing that can affect driving (Nakagawa, et. Al, 397). Changed thinking can also affect driving patterns. Many people who are 70 years of age or older can have problems affecting how they think. The elderly have slower reflexes and reaction times. It might take longer for them to make a decision when on the road. This is the reason why a lot of older people get lost, even when driving through a familiar place. Senior citizens also have shorter memories. They might forget simple traffic rules or forget to turn their signal lights off. Sometimes, things that they were able to do with ease are a lot harder now, because of age. There are also older people who find that their attention or ability to stay focused has gone down. This means that they are not able to stay alert while driving.
The argument that the elderly should not be able to drive is not only based on age. Health conditions, both mental and physical, of the elderly make it harder for them to be able to drive safely. Prescribed medication might also impair their driving ability, causing them to feel sleepy, nauseous or unalert behind the wheel. Studies show that the elderly do not have the motor skills needed for them to be able to remain safe on the road.
Nakagawa, Yoshinori, Kaechang Park, and Yasuhiko Kumagai. "Elderly drivers’ everyday
behavior as a predictor of crash involvement—Questionnaire responses by drivers’
family members." Accident Analysis & Prevention 50 (2013): 397-404.
Ray, Wayne A., Randy L. Fought, and Michael D. Decker. "Psychoactive drugs and the risk of
injurious motor vehicle crashes in elderly drivers." American journal of
epidemiology 136.7 (1992): 873-883.
Zhang, J., et al. "Age-specific patterns of factors related to fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes:
focus on young and elderly drivers." Public health 112.5 (1998): 289-295.