Whether you're in New York or another part of the country, odds are that at some point you've been on the road driving behind a car that appears to be crawling along. When you are finally able to pass the slow moving vehicle you notice that behind the wheel is an older driver. You briefly ask yourself, "If drivers can't keep up with the flow of traffic should they even be driving?"
Elderly drivers are not restricted from driving, but that does not stop many people from wondering about their ability to do so. While age alone is not a determining factor in someone's ability to operate a motor vehicle, statistics suggest that younger drivers with less experience, and older drivers with slower coordination, are involved more than their share of car accidents.
In fact, according to a 1997 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, senior citizens only accounted for 9 percent of the population, but were involved in almost 14 percent of fatal traffic accidents and 17 percent of the fatal pedestrian accidents.
Over time, statistics have continued to show that as age increases, so does the likelihood that elderly drivers involved in car accidents are more likely to sustain serious or fatal injuries. The fatality rate for drivers over 85 years old is nine times as high as the rate for drivers between 25 and 69 years old.
Would Stricter Licensing Requirements Make New York's Roads Safer?
Because of high accident rate and the increasing risk elderly drivers have on roadway safety, safety advocates wonder why driver's licensing requirements across the nation are not more stringent as drivers age.
In New York, all drivers have to renew their driver's licenses every eight years, regardless of age. Other states have different restrictions on the how often renewals have to take place, including increased restrictions on elderly drivers. For example, Illinois requires that all drivers over the age of 75 retake their road test every four years and once a driver turns 87, they have to retake the road test every year.
In New York, there are no increased testing requirements for older drivers. To renew their licenses, drivers simply have to pass an eye exam — no additional written or road test is required. However, if a NY driver's mental or physical health is called into question, then the driver may be forced retake portions of the driving exam or receive restrictions on his or her license.
Because the capacity of one elderly driver is not the same as another, there are no right answers to what age should be scrutinized or what additional restrictions should be put on older drivers. And though it is difficult to say that just because a person has reached certain age he or she does not have the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, statistics continue to show higher accident and injury rates for elderly drivers.