Elderly drivers and drivers' tests

Thursday, July 17th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Nearly 500,000 Oklahoma drivers are 60 or older. As long as your driver's license is current in Oklahoma, drivers don't have to take a test to get their license renewed, no matter how old they are.

News on 6 reporter Ashli Sims talked to some senior citizens Thursday who think maybe that policy should change.

These Tulsa seniors meet once a week to have lunch, chat, and play bridge. Many of them drive, but several don't. 92-year-old Gracie Best doesn't, because of her experience with her mother. “My mother has three bad wrecks and would not quit driving and no one could get her to quit it was her fault each one of em and she should have quit but she wouldn’t do it."

Best says it took a letter from the Highway Patrol requiring her mother to re-take the driving test. "She did it cause she had to. She knew she couldn’t pass the test and I think that it would be a good idea to test older people when they become a certain age."

Some think a re-test for older drivers could prevent accidents like one last summer. A 71-year-old woman died when she suddenly swerved, slammed into a bridge and her car flipped over. But accidents like one in 2001, when a woman drove into May's drug store are pretty rare. Oklahoma officials say drivers who are 85 or older represent only 3% of fatal accidents. But that doesn’t mean that every senior should be behind the wheel.

"Many people keep driving long beyond the age that they should be driving." 83-year-old Dr David Schrum still drives, but his family and his physician recently decided his wife should stop. “And I think its very important for the relatives that are younger children grandchildren what have you to tell them when they're older that they shouldn’t be driving and I think they have to be firm about it even though it hurts."

Elderly drivers aren't the only ones who get in accidents. Teenage drivers are only 9% of the driving population in Oklahoma, but they're involved in more than 20% of the crashes. Of course, that doesn't say who was at fault.

The American Association of Retired Persons has a list of things for families to look for when it comes to elderly drivers losing their capabilities. Slow reaction times, straying into other lanes and trouble seeing road signs or traffic signals. If you're concerned about a senior driver, there are senior driving evaluation classes available.

Call the AARP at 446-2277.