When did accidents involving elderly drivers become so much of a concern? Many say it was when a 90-year-old driver names George Weller was charged for 10 counts of vehicular manslaughter.
When had lost control of his Buick L Sabre, and ran through a Southern California farmer’s market. He was going at speeds of 60 mph, killing 10 people and injuring more than 50.
It is predicted that by the year 2050, one out of every five Americans will be 65 years old or older. It is also predicted that the 65 and over drivers will be following he same trend as elderly drivers today.
The concern of the driving abilities of young and old drivers is growing quickly. According to several statistics on all the injuries and fatalities of cashes, older drivers are a risk for becoming involved in fatal crashes. In 1995 older drivers were:
5% of all people injured in car accidents
13% of all traffic fatalities
13% of all car passengers and/or driver fatalities
18% of all pedestrian fatalities.
Other statistics show that in two fatal car crashes that involve a young and old driver, it is 3.1 times more likely that the car that was driven by the older driver will be hit. It also states that 27% of these two car crashes was when the older driver was turning left.
Dr. Cynthia Owsley came up with one solution. She created a department of ophthalmology’s Driving Assessment Clinic. What the clinic does is gets referrals from doctors, or other healthcare providers who think their patient needs to be evaluated. They also accept referrals by concerned family members or patients themselves. The clinic is run by a certified occupational therapist, which specializes in driver rehabilitation. What the clinic does is give the patient a vision screening (field of vision), and recognition test. The attention, memory, and decision-making ability are also tested.
The therapist then drives with the patient for two hours, and test their on road driving abilities. After those test have been made the therapist determine whether or not he patient should continue driving. Sometime the patient can drive but have to go through therapy, or have assistance when driving.
Other similar driving assessment programs can be found around the country. You can usually find tem in association with rehabilitation centers or research hospitals.