This past weekend saw several tragic auto accidents in California, among them a case of an 83-year-old male driver striking a bicyclist outside Monterey. The bicyclist, a 54-year-old man, died from his injuries. Cases such as these are sadly a regular occurrence, and they inevitably lead us to examine the potential dangers of elderly driving.
It's an unfortunate fact that when people reach old age, their skills behind the wheel generally deteriorate as well. The golden years may be good for spoiling grandkids and cruise vacations, but driving ability tends downhill with the extended passage of time. There are several reasons for this phenomenon, including:
- Decreased ability to quickly turn the neck and adequately see one's surroundings - key for mundane tasks like changing lanes.
- Leg pain can make it difficult to shift one's foot from the gas to the brakes quickly - necessary for preventing a collision on the road.
- Arm strength diminishes with old age - which means that turning the steering wheel quickly becomes harder.
- Reaction times among the elderly slow significantly - can they successfully respond to cars, bicyclists and pedestrians emerging from side streets in order to prevent a crash?
- If short-term memory suffers, so will the ability to keep track of the various signs and other road features that guide driver safety.
All of these factors add up to increased risks for everyone using the road; the whole community is going to face a greater danger from the typical limitations of elderly drivers. If you witness a case of hazardous driving by a senior citizen, you can report it anonymously to the California DMV with a DS 669 form. Just follow the form's instructions and send it in to your local DMV office - it's not an insult to an elderly driver, but a matter of safety for everyone in the neighborhood.