Giving Up The Keys: For Drivers, How Old Is Too Old?

In 2001, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) issued a report detailing concerns about the growing population of senior drivers, and the potential risks associated with this trend. Older drivers tend to be involved in car accidents more frequently than their younger counterparts. The IIHS report noted that the increase of elderly drivers and the increased frequency with which these drivers were expected to take to the road may cause serious safety problems.

These anticipated problems have not yet come to pass. According to an IIHS report issued last year, seniors are holding onto their driver’s licenses longer, but they aren’t causing more motor vehicle accidents. Despite the fact that there are more than 20 million drivers over the age of 70 on the roads today, the rate of both fatal car accidents and less serious collisions decreased from 1997 to 2008.

Researchers suggest that this decrease may be a result of self-policing. Many older drivers recognize their personal limitations and choose not to drive when it might be dangerous. However, not all older drivers will recognize their own limitations, and some may feel it impossible to surrender the freedom and independence that comes with the ability to drive.

When should older drivers consider surrendering the keys?

According to the American Association for Retired People, key signs can indicate that it is time to stop driving. Some signs, including the following, are obvious:

  • Frequent near-crashes
  • Traffic tickets
  • Minor dents and scrapes

These signs can indicate that an individual is having more difficulty maintaining control of a vehicle. Some signs are slightly less conclusive, but still warrant consideration. If a driver has difficulty turning to check the blind spots or has diminished peripheral vision, he or she may be at a higher risk of causing a collision.

At the moment, the decision to stop driving largely rests with the individual. However, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has taken an interest in safety issues related to older drivers, hosting a forum last December on Safety, Mobility, and Aging Drivers. Although it is too early to understand the consequences of this forum, as the NTSB turns attention to this issue, it seems likely that the future may bring increased regulation for older drivers.

If you or someone that you love has been injured in a car accident, you should turn to a trusted Philadelphia personal injury lawyer who can help protect your rights.