When is someone too old to drive?

November 12, 2010 8:49:42 PM PST
Three senior citizens in Queens are among a growing number forced to walk or take the bus to get around.

Four years ago, 86-year-old Irene Soulotis turned in her driver's license and gave up their freedom.

"I had an accident. My children wouldn't let me continue," she said.

"We're limited to this area. If we want to eat out we can't go," Natalie Epler said.

"In Florida, you know, they drive when they're 90," Mildrid Levine said.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, more than one in five licensed drivers will be 65 or older within the next 15 years compared to 1 in 8 today. (Click here to see webcast of the Aging Driver forum.)

The concern - Older drivers are more likely than their younger counterparts to be involved in traffic accidents and killed in collisions, given the same driving conditions, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Click here for PDF of report).

Transportation officials say the only group more dangerous than senior citizens is teenagers. Senior drivers have special trouble judging speed and distances, which causes an inordinate number of rear-end and left-hand-turn accidents.

We've seen the negative stereotypes in popular movies like Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Experts say keeping those drivers safe and mobile will be a challenge.

Experts point out that older drivers compensate for their driving limitations. They often only drive during the day and sticking to their neighborhoods.

AARP Associate State Director Chris Widelo says the organization offers a driving safety program, but sometimes relatives need to get involved.

"At least have that conversation. Bring in the doctor in to access their skills," Widelo said.

New technology like crash warning systems and night vision systems can help, but for some it won't be enough.

AAA has developed a couple of programs to help seniors. One is a computer program called "Roadwise Review: A Tool to Help Seniors Drive Safely Longer." The interactive CD-ROM tests eyesight, leg strength and memory, among other skills, and points out weaknesses in a senior's driving and suggests ways to improve. (Click here to learn more)

The other program is called CarFit. This one is designed to help seniors find out how well they currently fit their personal vehicle and to see if their car seat is the proper height and steering wheel in the correct position. Events are held around the country for seniors to attend. (Click here to learn more)

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