When are you too old to drive? Many people are posing that question today after Preston Carter, an elderly resident of South Los Angeles, backed his car into a group of nine children and two adults outside of Main Street Elementary School. Some of the injuries were serious and two of the children are still in the hospital receiving treatment.
Mr. Carter is 100 years old with a valid driver's license and, according to the L.A. Times, no record of traffic violations. Immediately after the accident the driver was interviewed by a local news crew and explained he lost control of his car when his brakes failed. He expressed his remorse when asked about hitting the children; "I'm sorry about that, I wouldn't do that, for nothing on earth."
Mr. Carter's grandson, Oscar Wright, told reporters that his grandfather is in complete control of his faculties and " he get's around, lives by himself, so ain't nobody told him he's too old to drive."
The California Department of Motor Vehicles has no special restrictions on elderly drivers, stating on their website, "The Department of Motor Vehicles does not take away your driver license when you reach a certain age. Your mental and/or physical condition or your inability to follow traffic laws and rules regardless of age determines whether your license is renewed, restricted, suspended, or revoked." Once a person turns 70 they are required to renew their driver's license in person and depending on the outcome of their interview and test, the DMV may offer seniors restricted licenses that allows them to continue driving but with limitations, for instance, no freeway driving. Occupational therapists are also available to do an assessment that includes both a cognitive evaluation and a behind the wheel test to determine whether an older person is capable of driving safely.
This issue of senior driving is growing as the population ages. In California there are 7,000-10,000 individuals who turn 65 every day. By 2030, every 1 in 5 drivers will be a senior citizen. As people age it's important for them and their families to be aware of any changes in their driving and address issues immediately. This is a difficult talk that may need to take place over a period of time to allow for a smoother transition. At this time its imperative to also make alternative transportation available to meet the needs of your elderly loved one. This may include public transportation, volunteer driving programs, paratransit services, or family members making themselves available to drive. To find these resources in your community go to Eldercare.gov
Driving represents so many things, including independence, freedom, and control. It may be difficult for many to just put away their keys. It's unknown if Mr. Preston exhibited any signs of deteriorated driving but as he turns 101 next week it's certain to be a major conversation in his family and for all us on the road.
For more information on senior driving go to these Your Turn To Care videos and resources: