A federal study of elderly motorists has called for better screening to identify impaired drivers but concluded there is no justification to restrict driving solely on the basis of age.
The National Research Council study said that older drivers have a greater risk of being involved in accidents because of their slower reaction time, vision problems and difficulties in gauging heavy traffic flow.
But the study said while driving skills often deteriorate after drivers reach 75, many elderly people are capable, safe drivers who pose less of a risk to highway safety than teen-age drivers.
The panel of experts suggested some of the problems with elderly drivers could be eased if road signs were made larger and brighter and highway markings were redesigned to meet the needs of older drivers. Many road signs cannot be properly seen by 40% of the drivers who are 65 or older, the study said.
“Age alone is a poor predictor of the (driving) performance of any individual,” the report said, acknowledging after age 75 a driver is “about twice as likely (per mile driven) to be involved in a crash” as middle-age drivers.
The panel called on states to adopt tougher screening methods to weed out problem drivers of all ages. It also suggested broader reliance on restricted licenses. For instance, some elderly people might be limited to driving during daylight hours if they have problems seeing at night.