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Government Report Highlights Problems With Older Drivers

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APRIL 30, 2007  VOLUME 14, NUMBER 44

Several times over the past few years (most recently in Safety for the Older Driver: Is Skills Training the Answer?) we have reported on an issue of great concern to seniors—the effect of aging on the ability to drive. Now Congress has gotten interested in the topic, if a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) (“Older Driver Safety: Knowledge Sharing Should Help States Prepare for Increase in Older Driver Population“) is any indication.

Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Gordon Smith (R-OR), the Chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, requested a review of state laws governing older drivers. The report details some of the reasons for concern, including:

  • Older drivers are less likely than their younger counterparts to be involved in fatal automobile accidents. However, if the results are recalculated based on number of miles driven older drivers perform much more poorly. Those aged 75 or older have a fatal accident rate higher than the next-highest category, drivers aged 16-24. Those two groups both suffer considerably more than double the fatal accident rate of any other age group.
  • The number of older drivers on the road is, of course, increasing more quickly than other age groups. With the aging of our population, problems associated with age and driving are expected to increase steadily.
  • Older drivers experience a particularly higher accident rate in intersections. More than half of all fatal accidents involving drivers over age 85 occur in intersections. While 37% of all fatal accidents involving drivers over age 65 occur at intersections, for drivers aged 26 to 64 the comparable figure is only 18%.

“Navigating through intersections,” notes the report, “requires the ability to make rapid decisions, react quickly, and accurately judge speed and distance.” What can be done to reduce intersection risk for older drivers? The report details a number of design ideas which might be implemented, including signage well in advance of intersections, larger street name and stop signs, black signal backplates (to make traffic signals more visible to older drivers), and offset turn lanes (to make it easier to see oncoming traffic).

The report also details regulatory steps taken by a handful of states to help ease drivers off the roads when they are impaired as part of their aging. Sixteen states require older drivers to renew their licenses more frequently. Arizona driver’s licenses, for instance, do not require renewal at all until age 65, and then require renewal every five years. Ten states (including Arizona) require older drivers to pass vision tests. Five states require older drivers to renew their licenses in person, rather than by mail (Arizona is one of those states, as well, requiring in-person renewals after age 70).

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.