The Road Ahead: Elderly Drivers

(CBS/John Filo)
Hari Sreenivasan is a CBS News correspondent based in Dallas.
A left turn at an intersection, it can seem a bit complicated to a new driver; when to wait, when to proceed into the intersection, when to turn the wheels and when to go- well it certainly can seem more complicated to an old driver. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 40% of fatal crashes of drivers over 70 include hitting other drivers in intersections.

It was at an intersection that one of the central characters of our story, Katy Bolka, was killed. She was waiting at the intersection when an elderly driver who had run a red light rammed directly into her car. She was a gifted young teenager, and her parents decided to take on the cause of her death by drafting and getting the laws of Texas changed. Katy's Law, which will change the rules for how elderly drivers must renew their licenses, will take effect in September of this year.

The most interesting little nugget which I found in the story was how most seniors naturally reduce their driving as they perceive increased risk. Many don't drive at night, avoid freeways, and try not to go very far from home. But the one thing that has been proven to work in saving their lives and the lives of others is to require them to appear in person for a periodical exam. This was the conclusion of a study by the Journal of the American Medical Assocation in 2004. It works for several reasons. Most seniors who don't think they are going to pass the test simply choose to forfeit their license.

It's such a simple addition to a privilege, I'm surprised more states don't do it.