Local News

Senior Citizens Face Questions About Driving Ability

Posted March 21, 2000

— One boy died and six others were injured after the grandmother of a student at Smithfield Middle Schoollost control of her vehicle. The incident has renewed an old debate. When is someone too old to drive?

Dr. Atul Kumar says sometimes older drivers do not know their limitations.

"As one ages, there is a little bit of a decrease in the reaction time," Kumar says.

However, many individuals take that into consideration. At 77 years old, Anne Berry says she has to be more focused when she is driving.

"I think I have to be much more careful than I used to," Berry says. "I find myself occasionally doing something that I wouldn't have done when I was younger."

The Division of Motor Vehicles tests drivers every five years, but there is a bill in theGeneral Assemblythat would require seniors to test every three years once they hit 85.

"There are some statistics that show as you get older, 65 or 70, there's a slight increase in the number of accidents involving those drivers," says Wayne Hurder, DMV spokesman.

Joe Mangum,AARPspokesman, says although there are a lot of seniors who can drive better than younger people, everyone ages differently.

"If somebody shouldn't be on the road, DMV has the authority to remove them at any age," Mangum says.

The AARP has driving tips for senior citizens to keep them safe on the highway.

  • Keep a three-second following distance between cars.
  • Eliminate left-hand turns where possible.
  • Use passengers as co-pilots.
  • Avoid driving at dawn or dusk, the most difficult times of the day to see.
  • Have the headlight aim of the vehicle checked.

    Doctors can also let the DMV know if their patients are not qualified to drive.

    The AARP and the Highway Patrol have teamed up to offer a refresher driving class for seniors called55 Alive.

    Anyone who would like more information about the program can call1-888-227-7669.

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