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25Aug/110

When Elderly Drivers Become Unsafe

Elderly drivers are generally more cautious and safer than young drivers. There is a point, however when every person becomes too old to drive. Reflexes, reaction time, eyesight and numerous other factors degrade with age.

20 Warning Signs To Look For In Elderly Drivers

• Decrease in confidence while driving
• Difficulty turning to see when backing up
• Easily distracted while driving
• Other drivers often honk horns
• Hitting curbs
• Scrapes or dents on the car, mailbox or garage
• Increased agitation or irritation when driving
• Failure to notice traffic signs or important activity on the side of the road
• Trouble navigating turns
• Driving at inappropriate speeds
• Uses a "copilot"
• Bad judgment making left turns
• Delayed response to unexpected situations
• Moving into wrong lane or difficulty maintaining lane position
• Confusion at exits
• Ticketed moving violations or warnings
• Getting lost in familiar places
• Car accident
• Failure to stop at stop sign or red light
• Stopping in traffic for no apparent reason

Or the most tragic warning sign - killing another person in an accident, as occurred yesterday in Fremont.
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A San Ramon man, 47-year-old John Soopikian, was on the curb next to the Interstate 680 on-ramp exchanging information with a woman he had just had an accident with on the highway.  An 83 year old Fremont man  driving a Buick Le Sabre drove his car onto the curb, struck Soopikian, and continued down the embankment, dragging the San Ramon man under the car until it struck a chain-link fence and tree, coming to rest. Police found Soopikian pinned under the car. He was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

I will go out on a limb here and say the the 83 year old Fremont man should not have been driving a car. I don't know the specifics of this case, but I have had plenty of experience with aging family members who stubbornly cling to their driving privilege past the  point where it is safe. One great-aunt was killed when here elderly husband crashed into the side of the building with here in the passenger seat. No other cars were involved.

There are two factors that come in to play here:

1) The choice of whether to drive or not is often left up to the elderly driver. Because their mobility and independence often hangs in the balance, they are reluctant to give up their privilege voluntarily, even if they know they are having trouble navigating.

2) Partly because the automobile manufacturers used their money and power to dismantle the public transportation system in this country,  having a car is almost a necessity in many places, especially if you maintain an active, independent lifestyle. More importantly, if  you are to be gainfully employed, you need a car.

More strict standards for driving competence is the real answer to avoid such tragedies as happened in Fremont yesterday. The economic impact such a change would have, in worker mobility and increased bureaucracy, however makes it very  unlikely such a change will occur.

(Source: San Ramon Express, AOL Autos)
http://autos.aol.com/article/when-are-you-too-old-to-drive-a-car/