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It has been almost six years since an 86-year-old California driver
killed ten people when his car ran out of control in a shopping mall parking
lot. But the raging controversy it ignited, over what to do about elderly
drivers, has not died down.
Florida, the state with the highest percentage of drivers over age 65, was the
first to establish safety resource centers to specifically test elderly
drivers' vision and decision-making behind the wheel. And Orlando, Florida,
became the first U.S. city to give its evaluation center the authority to
revoke the driving privileges of anyone deemed to be a risk on the road.
But many states still automatically renew the licenses of everyone who has
maintained a good driving record.
Debate over the fitness of older drivers rages in newspapers and online. Many
elderly drivers and their supporters say they obey the rules, drive more
courteously and cautiously than younger drivers, and don't do much
long-distance driving on highways, where accidents can be deadly. Often, they
say, there are few or no bus or subway alternatives, and they cannot afford
regular travel by taxi.
But others say slow-poke older drivers clog the road and ignite dangerous rage
in other drivers. They point out that even old folks who are slipping into
dementia and have no business on the road insist upon driving because it's
their last, proud vestige of independent living.
Thus, one of the most difficult tasks for many adults is convincing their
elderly parents that it's time to hand over the car keys as a safety measure to
them and others on and along the road. Sometimes the only argument that works
is a financial one. A crash by an older person with poor eyesight or judgment
may lead to lawsuits that can wipe out a family's savings from a lifetime of