In the United States, many people consider driving to be a fundamental freedom, something necessary for the quality and substance of their daily lives. State laws, however, view driving as a privilege, not a right. There are many laws and restrictions that govern the issuance and management of drivers licenses in Texas, all aimed at ensuring that only qualified drivers get behind the wheel.
One challenge for officials is how to manage licensing for older Americans. Age-related car and truck accidents will likely become more of a problem as the American population ages; the number of licensed drivers over the age of 65 is expected to double to 57 million by 2030. At this rate, one-quarter of all drivers will be over 65, and experts fear this will lead to an increase in auto accidents.
The issue of how to keep older drivers safe on Texas roads is one that pits advocates for the elderly against legislators seeking to curb the number of avoidable crashes that happen every year when drivers develop cognitive or physical issues that impair their driving.
The challenge for both advocates seeking to prevent age-based driving license discrimination and legislators seeking to prevent accidents is that there is no surefire way to screen older Americans for their ability to drive safely.
Issues facing older drivers
Health conditions that affect older drivers:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Slow reaction times
- Reduced vision or vision loss
Vehicle issues that can adversely affect older drivers:
- Uncomfortable or difficult to adjust seats
- Confusing dashboard design / display
- Difficult to reach or uncomfortable seat belts
- Car doors that are difficult to open and close
- Restricted visibility because of poor window design
- Large, difficult to maneuver vehicles
Road design issues that adversely affect older drivers:
- Poorly placed or damaged / missing road signs or markings
- Difficult to read fonts or font sizes on road signs / traffic control devices
- Poorly marked work zone areas
- Poorly maintained traffic control devices
- Ineffectively placed traffic control devices
How law enforcement officers and family members can help
Sometimes intervention from law enforcement officers or concerned family members is necessary to keep older drivers safe. The NHTSA makes the following suggestions for how to help older drivers:
- Refer older drivers to a local assistance agency for coaching and counseling on safe operational mobility
- Seek assistance and information from an older driver’s family members
- Assist older driver with finding public transportation options
- Advise on restricting motor vehicle use at night, in inclement weather, on the interstate, or other restrictions that might keep an older driver safe
- Remind older drivers that careful, honest self-assessment of their driving skills is important in keeping not only themselves safe, but others around them safe as well.
If the worst happens and you or a loved one are involved in a serious car and truck accident, please contact the experienced auto accident and injury attorneys at the Houston based VB Attorneys law offices today.