Older drivers are more likely to be in deadly traffic accidents than the average driver, but the solution is to improve licensing and highway standards, not force the elderly off the road, a research group said Tuesday.
Drivers over age 75 are second only to teenagers in the number of fatal accidents per mile driven, the National Research Council concluded in a report, "Transportation in an Aging Society."But most older drivers are "quite capable and safe," and a major part of the problem is many state motor vehicle departments do not catch the few drivers with physical conditions, such as declining eyesight or hearing, that affect their driving, it said.
"Few states are prepared for the growing need to screen older drivers to identify those whose declining skills increase the risk of accident involvement," the study, written by a 19-member advisory committee, said.
The report called on state governments to train licensing personnel to spot these drivers and offer them counseling and other help in solving their transportation needs.
In some cases, the states should issue restricted licenses, such as ones that can be used only during the day for people who have trouble seeing at night, it said.
Difficult highway conditions are another serious problem for older drivers, who tend to have accidents at slow speeds doing routine driving maneuvers such as changing lanes or turning left, the study said.
It called on the federal and state governments to make changes in roadways including increasing the size of signs, painting brighter lane lines and putting in more left-hand turn lanes and signals.