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Aging drivers pose safety hazard on California roads

With over 24 million licensed drivers in the state, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has been working hard to identify ways to reduce car accident rates. In part, they are doing this by taking steps to address the risks that come with a large population of aging drivers.

Napa County’s older population actually ranks eighth worst in California for fatal collisions and injury-causing accidents. In a recent report, the Association of Bay Area Governments projected that the over-65 population in the Bay Area will grow 137 percent by 2040. The state hopes that focusing on safety for older drivers now can ward off a dramatic increase in accidents in the future.

Of course, older drivers aren’t entirely to blame for high accidents rates. Statistics show that young people between the ages of 15 and 24 caused nearly a quarter of all fatal collisions and injury-causing accidents in 2009. The California DMV attributes this largely to the fact that young people drive further and more often than older Californians.

Part of older drivers’ safety problems may relate to the state’s driving test. California drivers only have to take a skills test once, when they first apply for a license. While drivers over the age of 70 must undergo a vision test, no other reexamination is required.

In addition, the DMV is considering licensing restrictions would limit certain drivers to the roads near their homes. This safety precaution would affect both older and younger drivers.

The DMV is working to identify and meet the needs of older drivers. In the meantime, drivers of every age are encouraged to practice safe driving techniques. Paying attention to the road, driving sober and obeying traffic laws can help everyone on California’s roads stay safe.

Source: Napa Valley Register, “Demographic shift may pose road safety challenges,” July 8, 2012.

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