A look ahead: Too old to drive? - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Tenn. drivers over 65 responsible for 27,000 crashes in one year

Twenty-eight states have additional requirements for older drivers. Twenty-eight states have additional requirements for older drivers.
But in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, there are no special requirements for older drivers; it is often left up to younger loved ones to take away the keys when the time is right. But in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, there are no special requirements for older drivers; it is often left up to younger loved ones to take away the keys when the time is right.
In 2012, Tennessee drivers over the age of 65 were responsible for 27,000 crashes involving death or injury. In 2012, Tennessee drivers over the age of 65 were responsible for 27,000 crashes involving death or injury.

(WMC-TV) - They make up almost 25 percent of all drivers in the Mid-South. They are responsible for hundreds of deadly accidents each year. Just how dangerous are drivers over the age of 65? Action News 5's Anna Marie Hartman is investigating a so-called "silver tsunami" on Mid-South roads.

In Dyersburg, a driver thought she was in reverse when she hit seven people at a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event. But instead, the driver, who accidentally struck nine students and a teacher's aid at Chimney Rock Elementary School, hit the accelerator.

So did the driver who crashed into a cleaners and nail salon in Germantown.

In each instance, a driver over the age of 65 was behind the wheel.

"Now, you don't want me to drive fast, do you?" said Pauline Jordan, who started driving in 1931. There is no stopping her. "I just like to drive fast. I would drive fast on a short road. Even though I knew I had to stop, I would drive fast."

"Freedom and independence, that's what it is," said George Coleman, who is a driving instructor with AARP.

He added that it is often difficult for aging drivers to accept that, for some, being behind the wheel is no longer safe.

"As we get older our bodies are different, we don't have the reflexes we once had," said George Coleman, AARP Driver Safety. "These are things that seniors need to stop and think about."

In 2012, Tennessee drivers over the age of 65 were responsible for 27,000 crashes involving death or injury. In Mississippi, they made up for 17 percent of deadly crashes. In Arkansas -- 16 percent.

Twenty-eight states have additional requirements for older drivers.

New Mexico requires annual license renewals starting at 75 years old. Washington, D.C. drivers must have a doctor's certificating stating that it is OK for them to drive in order to renew their license. And in Illinois, when a driver reaches 75 years old, they have to take a road test every time they renew their license.

But in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, there are no special requirements for older drivers; it is often left up to younger loved ones to take away the keys when the time is right.

"If someone who has been harmed has a good attorney, it doesn't take long to figure out if they have been told that they should not drive by a doctor of if they have been told that they had dementia and the family knows and has not taken the steps necessary and they injured someone," said Senior Citizens, Inc. Executive Director Pattie Lyons. "They are responsible and people don't think about that. They could lose everything, not just your parents, the children as well."

Dan Murrell is taking steps to make sure that does not happen to his family.

"I just want to know that she's [his mom] going to get where she needs to go safely," he said.

Dan and his mom, Pat, have already had "the talk."

"It's part of my identity," Pat explained. "It's part of who I am and I would like to keep that as long as I possibly can."

To make sure his mother does not stop living when she stops driving, Dan founded ITN Memphis, a driving service for those who cannot or should not drive.

"A service that will allow them to continue to go to everything that they've been used to going to before," said Dan.

It is something that Carl and Druscilla McVey may consider as they approach 70 years old.

"That split second could be someone's life," said McVey.

"If I know giving up the keys is going to mean for me to be here to be safe and to be around long with my husband or my family, God, there's the keys," added Druscilla.

AARP offers driver safety courses in a classroom setting and online. For more information on those, click here.

Should there be additional requirements for senior drivers in the Mid-South? Weigh in on the conversation happening on our Facebook page.

For more information about whether you or your loved one is still a safe driver, advice on how to improve your driving safety, and more, click here.

Copyright 2014 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. 
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