Video: Are older drivers a danger?

By George Lewis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 7/10/2006 7:22:40 PM ET 2006-07-10T23:22:40

Most students at a safety class for older drivers are there to get an auto insurance discount. At a recent class in Fullerton, Veronica Forbes is the youngest at age 60.

"When I repeat to someone my age, it's difficult for me to say those numbers," she says. "They sound so foreign to me."

Forbes is a youngster compared to classmate Berna Linden. Still highly active at age 81, Linden is still driving.

"You bet your sweet bippy I'm going to drive!" she says.

Drivers age 70 and older have the second-highest incidence of traffic fatalities of all age groups — about 25 deaths per 100,000 population. The only riskier group is teenagers, with more than 30 deaths per 100,000.

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), representing state officials who administer traffic laws, wants a national standard to measure the driving fitness of seniors.

"They should be based upon their functional abilities," says Mike Calvin with the AAMVA, "their abilities to operate a motor vehicle."

Boomers who want a thorough test of their driving abilities can go to places like St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif. There, the tests include an hour of actual driving in a dual-control car.

I've got an arthritic neck that limits my ability to look to the sides and the rear. Instructor Paul Cooper had to slam on the brakes when I failed to notice an oncoming vehicle. They recommended I get special mirrors to minimize blind spots.

"You need to accommodate the limitations of your neck mobility, but you did pretty well," Cooper told me.

And I lived to tell about it.

Cooper's information, and safe driving classes, just might help people like me and Veronica Forbes drive safely now that we've passed the big 6-0.

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