Buffalo, NY (WBEN) During his time as DMV Commissioner, David Swarts says he heard the issue of regulating senior drivers several times, as incidents like what happened on the 190 near Grand Island Monday occurred. He admits it's tough to set standards to determine when or if a senior can continue to be behind the wheel.
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Former Assemblyman Paul Tokasz
Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs
"We spent a lot of time when I was commissioner working on graduated driver's licenses for younger drivers, so there's a lot of support for them, but not for older drivers and that's a concern," says Swarts.
"As our population ages, it should be more of a concern, but it doesn't seem to rise to the level of political acuteness within the legislature, so very little's happened," he says.
Swarts admits cost is one issue, but political consequence is another. "Older drivers vote heavily," notes Swarts. "This issue is one that makes sense to consider but at the same time there's a lot of political volatility associated with it."
He says one other issue is how to set the standards. "How do make it fair? How do you adjust for older drivers with no sight, hearing, or reflex problems?" notes Swarts.
He says it's also easier right now for public awareness campaigns to convince older drivers to be re-tested.
Swarts adds a doctor can also recommend to the DMV a re-test for a patient, if there ever comes a time where family members feel it's time for the loved one to give up driving.
Read The Latest About The Accident Sparking This Debate: New York State Police continue to investigate Monday morning's deadly crash on the New York State Thruway near Grand Island, and they think the driver who went the wrong way may have done so for several miles. Three people were killed and both drivers seriously injured READ MORE
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WBEN's Ron Dobson took calls on the topic Tuesday morning. Here's a sampling :
One caller commented on her 81-year-old mother-in-law and how she started dealing with dementia and the difficult choice to take the keys away.
"She was very resistant at first, but it was getting to the point where she would just walk out of the house and just wander," she said.
Loren from Buffalo: "My late dad was in his middle 90s and he was still driving, although he didn't like driving at night, so he kind of refused to do that."
And from Facebook, there's this: " From a defensive driving instructor for 17yrs older drivers are not worst age group for amt of accidents but they are the worst injuries they should be tested every 2 yrs after age 67 in my opinion. "
Elderly Driving On The WBEN
Leilani Pelletier, Exec. Director
Alzheimer's Assoc of WNY
Chris DuQuin, Proprietor
Stevens Driving School
& O p i n i o n
Late in 2010, when the region was hit by several cases of older drivers crashing into storefronts...
Charles Battaglia from the Erie County Division of Senior Services supplied the following commentary:
"A driver's license is often considered a symbol of independence for both new and older drivers alike. One's ability to go shopping, attend social functions, participate at places of worship, and engage in other activities associated with daily living without relying on anyone else provides a person with the freedom and independence that driving affords them. For this and other reasons, such as the limitations of public transportation, the decision to give up the car keys can be a highly charged and emotional topic in our automobile dependent society.
We live in an aging society and this means that the number of older drivers on our highways is also increasing.
According to recent US Census reports, Erie County has a greater concentration of older adults than both New York State and the United States as a whole. For example, between 1970 and 2010, Erie County's population age 75 and over increased by 75.6% and the fastest growing segment of the population, those individuals age 85 and over, increased by a whopping 213%. The aging of the baby boomer generation means that these trends are expected to continue well into the next decade so the debates regarding driving and age are not likely to go away any time soon
The statistics regarding older drivers can also send somewhat conflicting messages. For example, older drivers are at greater risk for injury if they are involved in a vehicular accident and have a higher fatality rate then their younger counterparts. On the other hand, older drivers also have the lowest crash rates per licensed driver, tend to drive less, use seat belts more frequently, and are less likely to drive under the influence of alcohol.
Despite the media attention that often accompanies an accident involving an older driver, the research illustrates that age alone is a very poor predictor of who will become involved in an accident. While the vast majority of older drivers are operating their vehicles in a safe manner, there are those individuals who continue to drive when they are at risk due to physical and cognitive impairments, Driving a vehicle requires the coordination of a range of complex skills that can diminish as we age. Reduced vision and hearing abilities, slowdowns in reaction time, and limitations in a person's range of motion are some of the changes that accompany the aging process. Older drivers often recognize these physical and mental changes and make adjustments in their driving to compensate for these limitations. For example, many older adults do not drive long distances, don't drive on expressways, avoid driving in bad weather or during rush hour, limit their driving to familiar locations, and avoid driving at night or at dusk.
In some instances, a driver's health or physical limitations do cause unsafe, dangerous, and life threatening situations to occur. For family members and friends of an at risk driver, the challenges can be both confusing and difficult Studies have shown that many families avoid discussing their concerns about a loved one's driving abilities. When a family member has to give up driving, everyone's life is impacted. An older person loses independence and freedom and the family may now have to increase their level of involvement by assisting with that person's transportation needs.
Just because someone is getting older doesn't mean they have to give up the privilege of driving. The key is to take steps that assure that safety is first and foremost for oneself and others. There are a number of measures older adults can take that will increase their self sufficiency and ability to drive safely well into the future. Numerous resources are available that can assist an individual or family member who has concerns or questions about a person's driving ability. They address issues that range from how to begin the conversation with a loved one whose driving abilities are of concern, to actions that can be taken when a person continues to drive after all appropriate evaluations have been made and they continue to drive after all appropriate evaluations have been made and they refuse to stop driving voluntarily.
NYS should retest every licensed driver every 5 years. Generates revenue and won't single any group out.
Make it easy.....retest everyone
I think ALL drivers should be tested for reaction time, motor vehicle operation (in a simulator) and rules (basically a permit retest)
I think it should be given every time you renew your license. It would make it fair for all concerned and show NO bias towards any age group. This would also allow for potential bad drivers that do not fall in the upper and lower ages to be identified. Using a simulator would allow the test to be taken without the use of a real car and liability of having a substandard driver on the road and risking the lives of both the evaluator and public.
Kevin (43 years old)
Retesting & Renewals
For the longest time I have thought it ridiculous that one's driver's license does not expire at least every 5 years. Regardless of a person's age, eyesight and health may change from year to year for a variety of reasons. Certainly as we age, reaction time becomes an issue. While it is difficult to approach a parent or relative regarding his or her ability to drive, it must be done for the safety of everyone involved. I am sure no one would want to be responsible for the injury or death of another.