14 Mil Americans Have Had “Incidents” With Elderly Drivers in Past Year

Results of study could add to pressure for new restrictions on older motorists.

by on Jul.09, 2015

More than 14 million Americans have had "incidents" with older drivers, renewing the calls for stricter standards for elderly motorists.

When a 92-year old driver pulled into traffic on a Florida highway last April he was blamed for setting off a chain reaction that resulted in the deaths of three utility workers.

The crash was far from the exception. Federal statistics show that an average 15 older adults are killed in motor vehicle crashes, another 586 injured, every single day. And that doesn’t take into account fatalities and injuries caused by senior citizens behind the wheel. But a new study reveals that 14 million Americans have been involved in a road “incident” caused by an elderly driver during the past year.

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Those findings could add to mounting pressure to come up with tougher rules for older drivers, such as more frequent tests to ensure a senior citizen is competent enough to get behind the wheel. Such efforts have often run into strong resistance in a country where transportation alternatives aren’t always available.

“Driving is often associated with independence and freedom, which is why many senior citizens are reluctant to give up their car keys,” said Andy Cohen, CEO of Caring.com, the website that commissioned the new study.

Conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, the report concluded that approximately 14 million Americans have been involved in either an accident or near accident with an elderly driver during the previous 12 months.

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Other studies have shown growing support for either restricting older drivers or subjecting them to more stringent testing. The Caring.com survey didn’t raise that question directly but did ask who should determine whether an elderly person is no longer fit to drive, and Americans were largely split between three alternatives:

  • 29% favor a doctor or caretaker;
  • 25% think it’s the job of family, while
  • 23% feel state authorities, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles should determine an older driver’s competence.

Only 16% believe an elderly motorist should make the decision on their own.

But the study also found 40% of Americans would be more comfortable discussing funeral arrangements or selling an elderly person’s home than talking about whether a parent should still be driving.

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A recent report by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated the number of drivers over the age of 65 rose 34% between 1999 and 2012, to reach 36 million. That figure is expected to climb rapidly as the huge Baby Boom generation heads into retirement.

According to the CDC, “Per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase noticeably starting at ages 70‒74 and are highest among drivers age 85 and older. This is largely due to increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications among older drivers rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes.

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But the organization also points out that “age-related declines” in health, such as weakened vision and issues like Alzheimer’s Disease, may impact a senior’s ability to drive.

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8 Responses to “14 Mil Americans Have Had “Incidents” With Elderly Drivers in Past Year”

  1. Bill Uerkvitz says:

    I’m 74, drive a Corvette on the street and track. When I am behind the wheel it’s 100% concentration on the task of driving. Rarely is the sound system on and never a phone because I enjoy and accept the challenge of driving. Over the past few years I’ve had to increase my situational awareness due to the increased number of distracted drivers concentrating on cell phones, texting, and other actions than competently driving their car. Agreed older drives can be a problem, but less than the current generation of “operators” that are more interested in communication and entertainment than attentive driving. I ask you, what has been the industries response to distracted driving, adding more distractions and then adding driver aides to counter the interference they’ve caused. Autonomous vehicles are on the horizon, alas we older drivers will be the last true drivers. Oh, a late acquaintance of mine drove his last race at age 84, his name was P. Newman.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      Bill, as an aging Boomer, the story hit home. I also watched as my mother developed what ultimately proved to be Alzheimer’s, something signaled by her increasingly erratic driving. That said, until the last year before her recent death, I considered Denise McCluggage, well into her 80s, among the best drivers I knew. Unfortunately, the gap between best and worst clearly broadens as we age. The statistics back this up. That said, the difference between one’s innate capabilities and what one actually puts into the process of driving is another matter entirely.
      Paul A. Eisenstein
      Publisher, TheDetroitBureau.com

      • Bill Uerkvitz says:

        Paul,terribly sorry to hear of your mothers’ condition. I too went through a similar event with my late wife, she started exhibiting erratic driving and it proved to be a precursor of a fatal genetic disorder that caused countless micro strokes. I too, slightly knew Denise and agree whole heartily. I spent most of my career in transportation engineering & planning with a few years in accident investigation and statics. I believe that as one ages, the ability to focus is impaired and we become more easily confused. that said, it is incumbent on us to recognize the Boomers and re-evaluate our traffic management systems. signing, striping, signals to help reduce the potential for these factors. That said, I do agree that we need to investigate and evaluate this issue to develop the best solution. “He said with a wave and chugged off into the sunset in his MGTC.” Cheers, Bill

  2. Jim says:

    Another good reason to look forward to driverless cars.

  3. Jorge says:

    I’ve contended for years that there should be much higher driving skill requirements to obtain a driver’s license and periodic physical driving tests once people reach the age of 60. This would prevent a lot of unqualified people from ever operating a vehicle and remove those no longer able to properly operate a vehicle safely. While there are many people over the age of 60 who are competent, safe drivers, there are also millions of operators who are deadly dangerous and who cause accidents by their improper driving.

    Anyone caught using an electronic device while operating a motorized vehicle should be shot or lose their license for a year and be fined $5,000 for the first offense and fined $10,000 and lose their license for 5 years if there is a second offense.

    Naturally none of these practical approaches to reducing accidents, injuries and death will ever be implemented in the U.S. because there is an illusion of entitlement to a driver’s license no matter how dangerous an operator is. That foolishness doesn’t cut it in other countries.

  4. GT101 says:

    Florida has so many elderly drivers it’s surprising there isn’t more devastating crashes and deaths. There is no reason for age impaired drivers to still be allowed to drive. This should be obvious and not take another death to decide it’s time to pull their license if they are unsafe.

  5. therr says:

    I am 68 and not the best driver but I have not caused or been involved in an accident nor, to the best of my knowledge, caused road rage. That being said, my limited experience has shown that seniors who did not grow up driving regularly but are now forced to are among the most frustrating to be around, only slightly worse than millennials texting or talking and their parents who are talking on the phone as they get into a car and don’t hang up till they pull into a driveway. The United States definately needs better driver training, testing and licensing. Also, taking a license away from a violator usually only leads to an unlicensed driver. How many times have you heard of an unlicensed driver causing a fatal accident after being caught three or four or five times driving without a license? Here, in Michigan, we have a large population of illegal immigrants driving under the influence, without a license, causing a fatality. How do we get them off the road?

    • Jorge says:

      The issue with those driving without a license is significant around many areas of the U.S. and particularly in border states to Mexico. The problem is the U.S. judicial system encourages people to drive without a license by issuing a slap on the wrist instead of serious jail time for driving without a license or without auto insurance.

      Many border states have a horrific issue with illegals, unlicensed and uninsured drivers. If these criminals hit your car you are SOL if you don’t have uninsured motorist insurance. So good drivers are paying twice to compensate for the uninsured and/or unlicensed drivers. This is one more reason why ALL ILLEGALS SHOULD BE DEPORTED.

      All countries have immigration laws to protect society from criminals and other undesirable persons from entering and living in their country. The POTUS does NOT have the legal authority to change or bypass existing immigration law. Unfortunately the southwest area of the U.S. and as far north as the state of Washington, has inherited all of the criminal problems of Mexico, especially drugs. If the clueless U.S. state bureaucrats can figure out how to tax cocaine, crack, heroin, and all the other illicit drugs, they will eventually do it to compensate for governmental fiscal mismanagement. Then as history has shown they will spend as much as ten times the revenue generated from the taxing to deal with social problems resulting from legalizing dangerous, illicit drugs. You just can’t fix STUPIDITY in government.

      For the record there are some senior citizens that are competent drivers but they are typically the minority for drivers above the age of 60. Unfortunately many people in the U.S. never learned how to drive properly or they have no interest in driving properly. This is where a proper AV can help – some day – when they are finally properly designed, engineered, manufactured and programmed for safe roadway operation.