‘Silver tsunami’ of drivers is coming

The number of drivers over 65 will jump by 75 percent over the next two decades. (AP)

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON — The baby boom generation has pretty much led the way in most trends over the last four decades. Now there’s a new one concerning aging drivers.

This fall, four crashes involving older drivers killed six people in the Washington metro region.

Drivers over 65 now represent about 13 percent of those on the road, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, yet they are involved in 16 percent of all traffic fatalities. Nationwide, 5,288 people over 65 were killed in car crashes in 2009.

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend says this could be indicative of a “silver tsunami” of aging drivers in the next few years.

“That’s why it’s imperative for families and for older drivers themselves to be honest about the ability to drive at a certain age,” says Townsend.

There are certain tests you can give yourself or a parent or grandparent that may indicate trouble behind the wheel. Trouble making left turns because of decreased neck mobility or poor eyesight are clear signs of declining ability, especially for those over 75, Townsend says.

The number of drivers over 65 will jump by 75 percent over the next two decades.

Older drivers in general get into fewer crashes than the rest of the driving population, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the per mile traveled crash rates start increasing dramatically after 70 and even more so after 80.

AAA has several aides for drivers or their families to test for driving ability:

  • AAA Roadwise Review is a computer-based self-screening tool designed to assess a driver’s functional abilities important to safe driving.

  • Safe Driving for Mature Operators classroom and online courses provide driver training to help address the changes caused by aging and how a driver may compensate.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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