I drove up to the ATM earlier this afternoon – and had an experience I won’t forget soon. I was driving a car which seats me lower to the ground than I like for conducting a drive-thru ATM transaction. I pulled up – and, foolishly (I readily admit), left the car in gear – with my right foot on the brake. Because I was seated so low, I needed to twist quite a bit to reach the slot. As I did so, my foot slipped off the brake – and yup, you guessed it, I hit the gas. The car screeched, and I immediately slammed my foot on the brake – and avoided (by a hair) what could have been a disaster. I was shaken, and even though there was no one around outside to witness my foolishness, I felt quite embarrassed. Then it hit me. If my reflexes hadn’t been so quick, I bet reporters would have headlined this story with “Elderly driver slams into bank with car.” There’s a lot of debate going on about this in my state right now, and so my incident got me thinking.
This could have been an accident – but my age had nothing to do with it.ï¿½ï¿½I exercised really poor judgment – and that was the culprit! ï¿½So, here are some facts to consider if you, too, are After Fifty and are paying attention to the “Elderly drivers are poor drivers” debate.
According to The 2010 Statistical Abstract of the Us Census Bureau (see Table 1077) fatal accident rates (per number of drivers) in 2007 for those between the ages of 16 and 19 are simply the worst of all age groups. Rates get a little bit better for folks between 20 and 24. And it’s at this point that the “Great Divide” occurs. Once drivers hit the age of 25, fatality rates drop and continue to do so as we age. Yes, as drivers get older, fatality rates get lower. As it turns out, my age group, 55 to 64, has the very lowest fatality rates of all age groups. Then it starts to notch up a slight bit. Note that all drivers over the age of 75 are lumped into one group – and their fatality rates are almost 40% lower than drivers aged 16 to 24.
So, this is what I conclude. Increasing age alone shouldn’t be used as a criteria for denying someone the right to drive. That doesn’t make sense.ï¿½ ï¿½However,ï¿½yourï¿½physicalï¿½capabilities and mental judgmentï¿½need to beï¿½sharp if you’re going to handle a 1 to 2-ton killing machine.ï¿½ Maybe we need to think about assessingï¿½these a little better than we do now.