It concerns everyone who drives a vehicle. Should there be an upper age limit to drive? The answer to this question has been debated for a long time. While doctors underline that vision problems and cognitive problems, which are more likely to occur in older ages, prevent driving, driving experts draw attention to driver’s license renewal and health report issues. So when should drivers stop driving? Here are the details…
According to data released by the US Department of Transportation in 2020, the number of drivers aged 75 and over in the country was more than 17 million. Today, this number has increased even more.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to experts speaking to the Washington Post. Because many older drivers maintain their driving skills despite their age. On the other hand, automakers equip vehicles with equipment to make them safer, and roads are designed to provide more safety.
However, the driving of older people is an important topic of discussion. There are several reasons behind this controversy.
VISUAL DISORDERS, COGNITIVE FUNCTION AND MORE
Aging often causes visual disturbances such as cataracts, macular degeneration and peripheral vision loss. However, visual impairment is not the only obstacle to safe driving. Many other physical and cognitive problems can also be encountered in older individuals.
Michelle Andreoli, an ophthalmologist and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said: “It’s not the vision problem that worries me… The cognitive function of people who drive on highways really needs to be taken care of. This is often not tested in most places,” she says.
Cognitive skills are defined as a combination of visual perception and processing, and the ability to multitask and pay attention. Examples include a driver with a green light, failing to react quickly enough to avoid a pedestrian walking down the sidewalk into the road, or someone distracted by a billboard losing their lane on the road.
‘NOT TESTS FOR PERCEPTION AND ATTENTION CONTROL’
Neurology Specialist Dr. Nasih Yılmaz also supports this comment and says,Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s and cognitive problems are overlooked in the general examinations made in driver’s license applications. Examinations are mostly about the patient’s muscle strength and physical condition. Unfortunately, there is no test or examination for perception and attention control. This is an important gap.”
For this reason, Yılmaz stated that he thinks that perception, attention and memory tests should be applied especially in the license applications of individuals over the age of 65, and said, “The license holders over the age of 65 should also be subject to these checks once a year. If what I have said is done, an important step will be taken for driving safety.”
SHOULD THERE BE AN UPPER AGE LIMIT TO GET A LICENSE?
Nasih Yılmaz talks about the need to get help from numbers to clarify the issue and gives the following information:
According to a US-based scientific study conducted in 2020; The incidence of Alzheimer’s is around 3% between the ages of 65-75. While this rate approaches 17 percent for the 75-84 age group, it rises to 34 percent over the age of 85. Over the age of 90, it becomes even more dramatic and rises above 50 percent.
We estimate that these rates are one click higher than the current study in our country due to the low level of literacy and poor quality food.
Alzheimer’s disease, in which attention, evaluation and perception are greatly affected, is observed dramatically, especially in the group over the age of 85.
In this case, ‘Should there be an upper age limit to get a driver’s license?’ The question inevitably arises. The numbers show that it would be right to limit this.
CARS AND ROADS ARE MAKING SAFE
Of course, not all of these problems have solutions. But some issues are offset by better road engineering. According to various studies, additional equipment is added to cars to make driving safer for all drivers, especially older drivers.
Factors that contribute to safer driving include improved road signs with larger, brighter and easier-to-read letters, more left turn signals, larger, easier-to-see numbers on vehicles’ dashboards, and backup cameras.
‘TODAY’S ELDERLY DRIVERS DRIVE SAFE’
Aging does not, up to a point, deteriorate drivers’ performance in traffic. According to the AAA Traffic Safety Foundation, which operates in the USA, the 60s are the period when drivers adopt safety measures the most. The fatal accident rate for drivers aged 70 and over peaked in 1997, when automakers began researching and installing equipment that could help keep drivers safe.
Jessica Cicchino, vice president of research at the Insurance Institute for Road Safety, says it has been ‘successful on multiple fronts’, mainly thanks to changes in the design of cars and roads. “Today’s older drivers are not the same as yesterday’s,” Cicchino said. They are healthier and use safer vehicles than in previous decades,” she says.
Innovations implemented in cars include safety measures such as systems that sound an alarm when the driver leaves the lane, automatic braking systems that stop or slow the vehicle when a potential collision is detected, and night vision systems that help drivers detect pedestrians in the dark.
’65 YEARS OLD AND OVER MUST PASS SERIOUS CONTROLS’
“We all know that as people age, their reflexes decrease. Of course, this can vary from person to person. There may be some difficulties in perception not only in 65-year-olds, but also in younger people. We clearly see that the reaction time of each person is different in our trainings,” says Advanced Driving Techniques Specialist Ethem Genim, emphasizing that the best thing to do is to undergo serious checks at certain times.
Genim said, “The vast majority of traffic accidents are caused by people’s very low perception and reaction times. Therefore, some 65-year-olds need to undergo a serious check-up at certain intervals,” he says.
‘HE SHOULD STOP AT THE 85TH’
“Everyone’s situation is different, but even at the age of 85, I think it is necessary to stop driving now. Just as a driver’s license is issued after a certain age, this license must also be withdrawn after certain ages.
I do not think that the health reports received during the license renewal process are very effective. Now, it is necessary to carry out this work more meticulously, perhaps with the help of simulation, especially physical.”
Experts say that asking drivers to report on license renewal periods can work. According to one study, the requirement to renew driving licenses resulted in a 31 percent reduction in fatal crashes involving drivers aged 85 and over. Vision tests also resulted in a similar decrease in fatal crashes involving these drivers.
‘WE HAVE NO UPPER LIMIT FOR LICENSE’
“In our law, a person over the age of 18 is entitled to get a driver’s license after passing the necessary tests, but there is no upper age limit. Saying that there is an age limit only for some private affairs, Lawyer Hadi Dündar gives the following information:
To be a bus driver, you must be between the ages of 26 and 66. After receiving the psychotechnical report and training, the shuttle drivers start work.
For those who want to be a commercial vehicle driver with SRC certificate, the age limit was determined as 69 in 2021.
IS AGE A LEGAL FACTOR IN ACCIDENTS?
Talking about the legal dimension of the issue, Dündar said, “Although there is no specific age limit for driving license in our law, when the driver of the vehicle is involved in an incident, expert experts are appointed to reveal the defect rate in the incident and a report is prepared after discovery. As a result of that report, defect situations emerge,” he says and adds:
“If the person involved in the accident is old; Considering the hospital history, medication history and physical condition, a referral to the hospital can be made and a report can be requested. Of course, demanding these reports requires that the accident be of a nature that could constitute a crime.
If it is an accident that does not require a penalty, that is, an accident with material damage, then only the Traffic Law and the Highway Law apply, and the fault is determined according to which vehicle is at fault. Then we cannot talk about reflexes or dynamics of perception.” Selin Irmak Kaçmaz-Tuğba Öztürk/Hürriyet