Who is more dangerous – drivers 70 and over or 30 and under?
At 40, 70 is old. When you get there, not so much, and I’m getting closer quickly.
So when a reader complained that since January 1, California drivers age 70 and older had to take a written test and eye exam at a Department of Motor Vehicles office to renew their license, it caught my attention.
Frank, who lives in North Hills, called it blatant age discrimination. Speaking of which, Frank asked me not to use his last name because, as an entertainment writer, he fears revealing his age would work against him.
Frank was lucky to see his renewal arrive last fall, when it was still possible to take care of it online – without a written exam or an eye exam. But his wife, Diane, will have to go to a DMV office when she is reappointed in December, even though she has no points against her for accidents or commuting violations.
“No matter how you look at it, it’s discrimination,” said Diane, who believes that if young people with clean criminal records don’t have to take extra steps, older drivers shouldn’t have to. neither do it.
In fact, the in-person requirement of 70 and over is not new. It had been in place since 1978, until Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order for a temporary waiver during the COVID-19 pandemic. This waiver expired because the virus threat subsided, and we just went back to who we were.
To be honest, for those of us who are older and non-bionic, eyes start to fade, reaction time fades, and night driving can become more difficult. I’ve covered horrific fatal crashes in which the drivers were young and reckless, but it’s still hard to forget the horrific crash in 2003 in which an 86-year-old man lost control of his car and killed nine people, including a 3-year-old daughter, at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.
Over ten years ago, my siblings and I must have had this sad conversation about whether to hide our dad’s car keys – we even discussed reporting it to the DMV – because he was becoming a threat behind the wheel, even though he insisted he was as sharp as ever.
I thought back to my dad when I read that actor Dick Van Dyke, 97, had recently crashed into a door in Malibu during a rainstorm and sustained what were described as moderate injuries . I think it’s fair to have a conversation about whether 97 is too old to drive. And for anyone 70+ who’s dented a fender or kissed a fire hydrant, I have no problem with eye exams and driving tests.
Judi Snyder, of La Cañada, is in her 60s and is happy with the in-person eye exam and knowledge test required. I bumped into her on Wednesday as she was heading to the Glendale DMV office for her renewal appointment.
“I just don’t have a problem with it. I think you have to put a stake in the ground somewhere,” Snyder said, and 70 sounds like a good number to him. And most, but not all, states have similar renewal requirements for older drivers.
Suzanne Arnaud, from San Jose, sees it differently. She resented having to take the written exam, or knowledge test, as the DMV calls it. “I’ve never had an accident in 60 years of driving,” she wrote in a complaint published in “Mr. Roadshow,” Gary Richards’ traffic column in the San Jose Mercury News.
When I joined Arnaud, 75, she had already renewed her license, but she was still in the foam.
“I think it’s age discrimination, because to me what they should be looking at is an individual’s driving record,” she said.
They should also look at what we can all see clearly – highways and back roads are racetracks, and the pandemic has made driving even more dangerous because so many morons have used lighter traffic as an invitation to drive like maniacs. It’s still crazy out there, but it’s not Grandma and Grandpa driving like they’re auditioning for roles in “Fast and Furious.”
Although I admit that driving too slowly, as some older drivers tend to do, can be just as dangerous as going too fast.
So what can we learn from accident statistics?
First, the number of older drivers has risen sharply in the United States due to the age bulge. But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that in 2018 the number of fatal crashes involving drivers aged 70 and over had “recently increased, but they remain down from their peak in 1997, even though the number of licensed older drivers and the miles they drive have increased.”
The California Highway Patrol reports that in 2019, drivers age 70 and older made up 10.4% of all licensed drivers in California. But they were only involved in 7.2% of fatal accidents and 5.5% of injury accidents.
Two age groups stand out for their overrepresentation in collisions.
Drivers between the ages of 20 and 24 accounted for 8.1% of licensed drivers in California, but were involved in 11.9% of fatal crashes and 12.5% of injury crashes. And people aged 25-29 accounted for 10% of all drivers, but were involved in 13.4% of fatal crashes and 12.8% of injury crashes.
A DMV spokesperson said those numbers are misleading because younger drivers drive more miles than older drivers.
“Seniors are among the safest drivers on the road in terms of collisions and convictions,” the spokesperson said. “However, taking into account miles traveled, collision rates (but not convictions) begin to increase at age 70.”
OK, but if drivers aged 70+ drive less and are more likely to take short trips to the post office and supermarket, is the extra burden of testing justified?
Lawyer Rodney Gould doesn’t think so.
“A 70-year-old today is markedly different than a 70-year-old was in, say, the 1970s,” said Gould, whose San Fernando Valley law firm represents clients. of all ages who are fighting license suspensions and other issues. .
I won’t go so far as to say 70 is the new 50, but I’m with Gould. Since the launch of the Golden State column, I have regularly heard from people over 70 asking me to go watch them surf, play ice hockey, run marathons and launch a second and third career.
“People are generally healthier,” Gould said, “and I don’t see anything that makes me think 70 should be the magic age limit.”
The knowledge test for drivers 70 and older is computerized, Gould said, and it’s an unfair challenge for people who didn’t grow up with computers. He said he arranged for customers to request that a DMV representative read the questions aloud, so the requester could respond verbally.
By the way, if you have to pass the DMV knowledge test, don’t assume it’s child’s play. Several people recommended not just reading, but studying the DMV test guide.
In San Jose, Arnaud said he struggled with a question about the fine for abandoning an animal on a freeway. (It’s punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, six months in jail, or both.)
Mike Lynch, a 73-year-old political consultant, said in an op-ed for the Modesto Bee that he failed twice. During a failed effort, he missed two questions about blood alcohol content.
“I went home and studied for about three hours,” Lynch told me, and he passed on his third try.
Lynch said that despite his failed exams, the whole process was relatively straightforward at the Turlock DMV office, and he isn’t opposed to requiring in-person testing.
I don’t know if I’ll be as docile as Lynch when I renew my license. If I got a ticket or two and crashed into a tree, sure, give me the eye test, the written test, and even a driving test.
But if I’m still clean, let it roll. Because 70 isn’t what it used to be.
Los Angeles Times