Driving While Elderly: Policies Pertaining to Age and Driving
You are 84 years old and yesterday you killed my son. I don’t know if you’re even sound enough to understand what you’ve done it I have no sympathy for you or any of your family. And I everyday that you remain on this planet you see my son when ou close your eyes …. We very much support a mandatory limit on the driving age for seniors. -Amanda Welling, the mother of an eight year old boy killed by an elderly driver who accidentally drove a car into the boy’s elementary school, expressing her anger t what the woman had done and at the fact that the woman was still allowed to drive (qt. in Ruhr, 2007)
Ironically, the elderly driver involved in this deadly crash was on her way to a senior citizens’ center for a driving class because it as time to renew her driver’s license. This accident followed in the aftermath of a number of other tragic accidents Involving older rivers, including a 2003 accident In Santa Monica, California, where an 86-year old man’s car hurtled through a farmers’ market, tilling 10 people and injuring more than 70 others (CNN.com, Poona). Other accidents Involving drivers over the age of BS have included a man driving a sport utility vehicle into a crowd of pedestrians and vendors at an open-air market In Rochester, New irk, Injuring 10 people, and an 87-year old North Dakota woman, who was on her way to a medical appointment, smashing her car Into a hospital lobby, Injuring 5 other women (CBS News, 2007 Shortly after each of these incidents-and others Involving Singsonging elderly drivers-occurred. newspapers and cable TV channels ‘>began on-the-site reporting of the accident and lengthy discussions bout the possible Implications of these
tragic incidents for other older drivers. Should there be a mandatory age at which people must quit driving? Should there be more frequent testing of older drivers? What could be done to prevent future occurrences of this nature? All of suggestions buzzed round, but no answers were readily apparent. Advocates for older people emphasize that these tragedies seldom happen and that ll older drivers should not be penalized for the actions of a very few people.
Most of us can recall the time when we anxiously awaited our next birthday so that we would be old enough to get our first driver’s incense. Allstate in the United States have a minimum age for getting a leaser’s permit or a first driver’s license, but far fewer taus have policies regarding drivers over the age of 65. However, this is likely to change in the near future with the aging of the U5. copulation. By 2030, one In four drivers In this country will be over age 65. Some people will voluntarily give up their car keys hen they believe that they can no longer delve safely. The National Institute on Aging estimates that about 600,000 people age 0 r over give up their driving privileges each year (Gardener, 2003). But the question remains: What, if anything, should social policy makers, such as state legislators, do about those who either do not know that it is time to quit driving or who simply refuse o give up this privilege, which they often equate to giving up their freedom? Clearly, there are competing rights and concerns involved In social policies pertaining to older drivers. On the one hand, older drivers point out that most cities lack adequate public transportation and that not being able to drive makes them a burden on other people, if other people are even available to rive them around to appointments, for groceries and other errands, and for recreational activities. On the other hand, pedestrians, other drivers, and
The media contribute to negative images of older persons. many of whom are portrayed as doddering. feeble minded. wrinkled. nd laughable men and women. literally standing on their last legs (see Box 2.3). This is especially true with regard to advertising. In NE survey, 40 percent of respondents over age 65 agreed that advertising portrays older people as unattractive and ncon~petent (Po mice, 1990). According to the advertising director of one magazine. “Advertising shows young people at their best and most eautiful. but it shows older people at their worst” (qtd, in Bernice, 1990: 42). Of older persons who do appear on television. most re male; only about one in ten characters appearing to be age 65 or older is a woman. conveying a subtle message that older omen are especially especially especially unimportant (Pom Lace, 1990).
Fortunately, in recent years there has been a growing effort by the media to draw attention to the contributions. talents. and tamina of older persons rather than showing only stereotypical and negative portrayals, For example. the New York Times, CNN Cable News Network). and other news sources highlighted more than a dozen runners over age 80 in the New York City Marathon. The media pointed out that some runners were in their nineties and that records are maintained of such ccomplishments as being the fastest 85-yearold ever to complete the race (Barron. 1997). Despite some changes in media overage of older people. many younger individuals still hold negative stereotypes of “the elderly” In one study. William C. Levin 1988) showed photographs of the same man (disguised to appear as ages 25. 52. and 73 in various