NTSB tackling the question of aging drivers on the road


Editor’s note: This segment originally aired in Dec. 2010.

Should aging drivers be tested annually to ensure they still have what it takes to stay safe out on the road? This question really hit home for me because my siblings and I recently had to take our mom’s driver’s license away because of her advancing age. Believe me, that was not fun.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now trying to figure out how to handle aging drivers with deteriorating skills behind the wheel. The thing is, driving skills will deteriorate at different rates for different people.

My siblings and I went back and forth like a rugby scrum on the issue of our mom’s driving. At 86, she should not have been on the road, but she did not want to give up her independence. We finally had to take the keys away and sell her car. In reality, we were lucky she never harmed herself or someone else. She drove well beyond the point where it made sense for her to be on the roads.

The problem in America is that we don’t want to take away people’s independence. And you do have to drive in most places; public transportation is simply not a viable option in many areas of the country. But that need for mobility and independence has to be balanced with the idea that you don’t want to put people in harm’s way — either your loved one or someone else.

I’m curious about what you think. Should there be mandatory annual driving tests for senior citizens? If so, at what age should that start? Be sure to vote in this week’s poll to let me know.

I want to underscore that this is not an attack on people who are aging; it is a reality. The funny thing is that many older drivers believe their driving is fine, but that all their contemporaries should have long ago had their keys taken away! It’s the same thing where younger drivers say other people are a menace on the road, but they themselves are the paradigms of traffic safety. Yeah, right!

It’s just human nature to grade ourselves on a curve. But the reality is when we get to that curve at an advanced age, a lot of us are gonna miss it and drive right off the road!

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