Kerry Donnelly, assitant manager of driving training at AAA of WNY, says more instruction has allowed a larger number of seniors to stay safely on the road.
"This is about their independence," Donnelly said. "The longer seniors can stay out there and safely be mobile, the healthier they're going to be. They can get to the doctor's appointments, they can have social interaction. It's more important for their mental health and well-being."
Donnelly also said that older drivers are the most careful on the road, often taking extra precaution to slow down, pay attention to road signs and speed less frequently. She said drivers under the age of 24 are the "most dangerous" on the road. Seniors have had fewer collisions than inexperienced, younger drivers.
On Monday, Marion S. Ressel, 80, of Tonawanda was driving a 2000 Honda east on Main Street on her way to Milo's Restaurant with her husband, Harold Ressel, who was a passenger in the car. For unknown reasons, the driver lost control and careened into Milos restaurant in Williamsville, striking two diners inside.
According a study by the Center for Disease Control, fatal crash rates increase starting at age 75 and continue to increase "notably" after age 80. Often medical conditions such as blurred vision and memory loss are leading causes of accidents.
Donnelly offers senior driving training courses and evaluations at AAA in Buffalo for drivers who want to stay confident in their ability to drive. Similar to young driver training, an instruction sits in the passenger seat. A big difference in senior driving training is the new technology that's available.
Handbrakes and "spinner knob" driving wheels allow drivers with weaker muscles greater mobility in braking and turning.
2 On Your Side spoke with a number of lawmakers' offices today and found out that there is currently no active legislation in New York State to create additional restrictions for elderly drivers to keep their licenses.
"I'm really hesitant to put any additional testing on [seniors]. As long as families and people are working with their doctors and educating themselves, I don't really feel that at this time any additional measures are needed," said Donnelly.
AAA of Amherst is hosting a Senior Driving Expo Thursday, June 7th from 10:00a.m. to 2:00p.m. at their location at 100 International Drive in Williamsville. More information and registration for the Senior Driving Expo can be found at their website at http://westerncentralny.aaa.com/car/driver-training/seniors.
Currently, at least 33 states have additional testing requirements for older drivers who seek to keep their licenses. Some require more frequent driving tests or eye exams. New York State does not have such requirements.
Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs released the following statement to 2 On Your Side:
Not knowing the all the facts to this specific case in Williamsville, driver skills and abilities are based on the performance of the driver themselves, not necessarily their age. According to a recent study drivers in their late 70s have about the same number of injury-involved crashes per mile driven as drivers in their early 20s.
As far as the New York State DMV, they do not re-evaluate drivers based on age. New York State does have a "Driver Re-evaluation Program" which is designed to allow a driver to demonstrate that the license holder is qualified to drive. However, the intended purpose of the class is not to remove the driving privileges based on age, but driving performance only.
NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law, Section 506 (1) states that a driver can be re-evaluated: "If the Commissioner has "reasonable grounds" to believe that a person holding a license is not qualified to drive a motor vehicle, the Commissioner may require such person to submit to an examination to determine their qualifications.
"Reasonable grounds" means that the DMV must have specific reason relating to driving performance why a driver needs to be contacted for a driving re-evaluation. Such as a driving incident, behavior or action reported to the DMV by a physician, police officer or someone who knows or has observed the driver.
I encourage all motorists to consider taking driver improvement courses to sharpen their skills, learn up-to-date driving techniques and potentially receive a discount on their insurance.