2013 Symposium: Should The Be An Age Limit Of Driving?

Cartwright: I think the entire system of issuing driving privileges needs reformed. Let’s keep in mind that driving is a privilege, not a right. I’m interpreting the question as placing an age limit on driving such that when you reach a certain age you must surrender your driver’s license. I don’t necessarily think elderly people on the road is an overwhelming part of the problem. In fact, people over the age of 65 account for the lowest percentage of drivers in all accidents. Young people account for a much higher percentage.

There are way too many people driving on the roads who don’t need to be driving. This isn’t just people who are too young and too immature to comprehend the responsibility of driving a motor vehicle. These are people who don’t have licenses or have had their licenses revoked or people who are prone to cause problems for other drivers. If someone has maxed out the points on their license, why should they have a right to drive? If you’ve maxed out the points, doesn’t that say that you don’t have regard for traffic laws and thus don’t have regard for the safety of others on the highway? There are too many people driving on the roads for law enforcement to enforce the traffic laws. So, what do we do? Let’s implement traffic cameras at stop lights and accident prone intersections. Let’s require more stringent training for young people before they are able to obtain a driver’s license. Let’s require periodic written and driving tests for all drivers.

How can we solve this problem and lessen the cost of traffic accidents? Every traffic accident impacts drivers’ insurance rates whether you were in the accident or not. If you live in an area where there are a lot of accidents, you pay higher insurance rates whether you have a good driving record or not. And of course, there’s the cost of human lives when you have fatal accidents. I have long said that there are too many drivers on the roadways. How do we lessen the number of drivers on the roads? We need substantially higher gas prices. As the cost of gasoline increases, the usage of automobiles decreases. Let’s jack up the federal gas tax to three or four dollars per gallon and use that money exclusively to invest in infrastructure projects, namely public transportation projects such as high speed rail, monorail systems, and improved mass transit. But we can’t just do this for the big cities. We need to expand this so that people from all over the country have access to high speed rail. Let say you live in rural Florida and want to go to Washington, DC and the closest high speed rail depot is forty miles away. You don’t want to drive because gas prices are so high, so you may opt for a bus ticket or a commuter rail to get you to the city and the high speed rail. This improvement in mass transit will come if we have a substantial rise in gasoline prices. When gas prices spiked back in 2008, mass transit ridership throughout the nation increased exponentially. There’s a very clear and simple relationship here. As gas prices rise, usage declines. As gas prices rise and usage declines, we have fewer drivers on the roads leading to fewer accidents, lower insurance rates, and less pollution in the environment, ceteris paribus. Higher gas prices are not very palatable to most people, but there are significant benefits to it.

North Carolina: Since driving is a privilege and not a right, according to every driving manual in America, drivers of any age should be subject to limits if they drive recklessly, create hazards, cause serious or fatal accidents, drive under the influence of illicit drugs, alcohol and other substances or drive in spite of serious impairments and medical conditions. Age limit curtailment concerning drivers is a controversial issue and there are positives and negatives with the controversy. Those affected are younger drivers in the 15-24 age range and older drivers in the 75 plus range. The most dangerous are the youngest drivers in the 16-19 age range, and according to wiki.answer.com accounted for 16 percent of all drivers in accidents. Younger drivers had four times the accident rate of people older than 65. Older drivers have higher rates of fatal crashes, based on miles driven, than any other age group except young drivers.

With these kinds of statistics, age limits for driving should be considered in a preventative and proactive way. No state authoritative organization wants to take away the independence and ease of transportation from age specific driver groups, but nor do they want younger and older drivers seriously endangering the lives of themselves and others. If driving privileges are to be restrained by age limits, there are factors that should preclude those limitations. Effective age limit sanctions should involve periodic road tests that require practice and demonstration of control of a vehicle under certain conditions and situations. Drivers on the lower and upper age categories who are involved in repeated driving offenses should be required to participate in driver schooling and testing. Driving privileges should only continue if a driver is physically fit, mentally aware and able to see, hear and distinguish distances, exhibit reasonable reflex responses, and pass written tests and actual driving tests that assess reaction times and actual accident scenario assessments. If a serious accident has occurred due to negligent driving at younger and older age levels, then actual on-the-road practice and skill demonstration of capabilities must be performed. If a serious injury or death has occurred due to the negligence, ineptness or influence of narcotics, serious consideration should be made as to allowance of any driving privileges. Driving is a privilege, and those younger and older drivers who neglect and take advantage of the privilege must be subject to rules and protocols that limit and restrict those privileges.

Orlando: Roads are dangerous. A cursory look at automobile fatality statistics suggests that traffic fatalities are among the leading causes of accidental deaths in America. Any time hundreds of thousands of human beings, with limited attention spans, biological needs, and widely varied reaction times operate half-ton machines at speeds exceeding their unassisted transportation rate by a factor of 20 or more, accidents are inevitable. However, the problem of automobile accidents is particularly pressing for older Americans. Road safety analysts working for the US Department of Transportation estimate that, by 2030, when the portion of the population over 65 is expected to peak, drivers over the age of 65 will be responsible for 25% of automobile accidents. Partly, this shift is demographic. Automobile accidents are somewhat randomly distributed across the population, so as a demographic group becomes a larger portion of the population, their portion of accidents will also increase. The non-random distribution part of that shift, though, is that older drivers tend to have slower reflexes and decision-making skills, deteriorating eye-sight, and increased risks of senility, which result in more accidents of greater severity.

Some states have responded to this by imposing tougher regulation on drivers over the age of 65. Some states have begun requiring yearly DMV visits for seniors seeking license renewal, while others have imposed additional vision testing requirements. These steps have resulted in as much as a 10% decrease in senior drivers, which is certainly positive, but is a drop in the bucket for the larger policy problem. For most seniors, driving themselves is the only way of getting from place to place. Revoking the licenses of these people will encourage them either to break the law and drive without one, or to not take trips they deem necessary. If other, safer options were available, most would take them. The real solution, then, to reduce the risk posed by an aging driving population is to expand public transportation, both in scope of service and in accessibility. Providing public transportation that caters to the needs of an aging population would improve the well-being of the car-driving public, encourage exercise for senior citizens, decrease traffic congestion, and improve the quality of our environment.

South Carolina: We have all been stuck driving behind the little old lady going 20 MPH in a 50 MPH zone. It is incredibly frustrating. Should she still be driving? When is the last time she had her eyes checked? When is the last time she had her motor functions tested? It’s not hateful but it’s the sad truth that when we get older these things begin to fade.

I’m not so sure there should be a direct age limit on driving, because it is feasible to say that one 80 year old person is not at the same function level as all others. Instead, I think that once we all reach a certain age we should have testing every few years to be sure we are functioning well enough to be behind the wheel of a vehicle.

After 60 everyone should be subject to yearly eye testing at their DMV or provide proof they have had an eye test with their optometrist. This will ensure that everyone can read the signs and see the signals. After 70 everyone should be subject to a motor function and reflex test. These tests will ensure that our ability to react is still up to par. Accident avoidance is a big part of driving. These tests could ensure that people are still up to their fullest potential driving. If someone cries for discrimination of elderly people then test everyone!

These tests would probably put quite a few elderly people off of the roads. This is unfortunate but here is the solution. All these people sitting around on welfare can volunteer their time driving the elderly to their appointments, grocery stores, and if they are employed to their jobs. Problem solved.

Michigan: I don’t think that we can set an age where you can no longer drive. We all age at different rates. I do think that we should pick an age where the testing gets serious. As we age our eyes, ears and reflexes are all impaired to some degree. 65 might be a good age to start retesting drivers.

Washington, DC: It is a fact of our modern life that, thanks to medical advances and improved standards of living, people live much longer than they used to just a few decades ago. According to U.S. Census Bureau, there were 308.9 million people living in the United States at the time of the 2010 census and, among them, the segment of population aged sixty-five and older constituted 13.0 percent or 40.3 million people. One of the most obvious trends regarding population change in the USA from the previous census of 2000 was its apparent ageing; the older population grew faster at the rate of 15.1 percent than the population under forty-five.

Of course, the composition of population bears important implications for many policies in the country: social, political, economical, and cultural. Among them, one of the most important ones is the discussion of whether older people should have age limitations on their driving privileges. The proponents of an age cap usually assert that, due to an advanced age and accompanying difficulties such as slower reaction time, worsened eyesight and hearing, slowed mobility, etc., these drivers can be dangerous on the road and, consequently, they should be prevented from driving. The age suggested is usually arbitrary and is put somewhere between seventy-five and eighty-five. However, is it plausible to do so in the United States?

Many older people in the United States live alone and do not have any family nearby. Since public transportation in the better part of the country is poorly developed—aside from major cities such as Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco—it will be very difficult for older people to accomplish even the simplest tasks like grocery shopping and going to medical appointments without being able to drive. Consequently, if some states decide on revoking driving privileges of older drivers, they must offer some other viable and convenient mode of transportation for them before taking away their independence.

Still, we must realize that elderly drivers can, in fact, be a danger to others on occasions. Fairly regularly, there is news about some elderly driver crashing into sidewalks or stores and injuring others. The most effective approach would be mandatory yearly complete medical exams after the certain age (not just a vision test) which would test physical, neurological, and mental capacities of a person and on the basis of which a doctor provides a recommendation whether a person is healthy enough to obtain a driving license.

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