Should the Elderly Be Driving?

Statistics show older drivers become more crash prone even though they drive less.

A tragic, fatal crash involving an 86 year old man over the weekend is calling into question, how old is too old to get behind the wheel?

It's a delicate balance, how can you preserve your loved ones' personal freedom and mobility, while ensuring they are not a hazard to themselves and others on the road?

Unfortunately, there's no single, easy answer.

This accident on Alcoa Highway killed an 86 year old man over the weekend.

Knoxville police say the elderly man driving the saturn was trying to make a left when he ran into a buick headed northbound.

Those two passengers required medical treatment.

And just last week an elderly driver who killed 10 people and injured more than 70 when his car plowed through a farmers market in Santa Monica was found guilty of 10 counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

89-year old George Russell Weller faces as much as 18 years in prison.

Most drivers monitor themselves and gradually limit or stop driving when they feel a situation or or their driving is unsafe.

But some people fail to recognize their declining abilities.

"You know the old stereotype of the older driver doing this? It's a stereotype because it happens. You need to have three inches of vision over the steering wheel," said Don Lindsey.

Triple A's Don Lindsey says one size doesn't fit all, if you need to broach the subject with your parent or loved one, remind him or her that there are several options, depending on the degree of impairment.

While stopping driving may be the only answer in some cases, stopping driving too early can cause a person's health to decline prematurely.

"We're the fastest growing population group in the country, and pretty soon there are going to be tens of millions of us who are going to have to face this decision. So, we as a society need to make some adjustments to make this kind of thing work," said Lindsey.

By the year 2020, in the U.S. there will be an estimated 54 million Americans over the age of 65, and many of them will be driving.

Older drivers experience physical changes that can affect their driving ability. These can be changes in vision, reaction time, and flexibility.

Traditionally young inexperienced drivers have the most crashes but when a driver reaches 80, studies show those numbers peak once again.

The number of accidents caused by new drivers and drivers over 80 are statistically the same.