USA TODAY correspondent Bob Riha, Jr. reports that the results of a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows a significant decline (37%) in fatal auto accidents involving seniors over the age of 70. The study between 1977 and 2008 showed a dramatic decrease in vehicle accidents involving seniors as compared to a 23% decrease in younger drivers age 35 to 54. With larger numbers of seniors on the road these days one would think that accidents involving seniors would be increasing. According to IIHS spokesman Russ Rader, “The stats are running counter to what most researchers thought would happen. Ten years ago, we predicted that we were going to have a problem with the elderly and automobile crashes; however, the opposite is occurring.” The new statistics are thought to be related to seniors taking better care of themselves, driving more carefully, exercising more common sense, driving less, and advances in auto safety equipment.
Applicable California Law
California has no maximum age restrictions on licensing drivers, however drivers are required to have basic competency to drive safely. The California Department of Motor Vehicles offers a special eight hour course for mature drivers over 55 years of age. Current efforts are being made to have the state legislature tighten regulations on elderly drivers, such as requiring annual doctor certification to prove fitness to drive. The California DMV currently requires drivers over 70 to take written and vision tests every five years
Elderly drivers are often criticized for being poor drivers, and causing auto accidents, and motorcycle accidents, resulting in serious injuries or wrongful death. The new studies will hopefully educate the public at large and dispel the perception of seniors being hazardous drivers. If you, or someone you know, has been injured or lost a loved one in an accident due to the carelessness of another, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.