A University of Alabama at Birmingham research study into a Florida law found that a simple vision test may help reduce fatalities related to car accidents among older drivers. Researchers found that highway traffic fatalities among older Florida drivers decreased 17% after Florida passed legislation demanding that drivers 80 years and over get a vision test. In states such as Alabama and Georgia, where no such law was passed, death rates among elderly drivers remained the same.
As a result of the research, other states may soon also pass special screening requirements for elderly drivers, although other states may include other screening options in addition Currently, nine states as well as the District of Columbia require elderly drivers to pass regular vision tests. In addition, two states as well as the District of Columbia require older drivers to take a road test.
The study has raised some questions regarding accidents among the elderly. Some experts have suggested that elderly drivers in fact pose a smaller risk than other groups of drivers. Some experts suggested that elderly drivers tend to avoid risks, tend to be in accidents with low speeds, and tend to be hit rather than be the perpetrators driving into another vehicle.
Regardless of why car accidents among the elderly happen, they do occur and they do cause not only fatalities but also property damage, broken bones, spinal cord injury, burn injury, and brain injury, to name just a few problems. In addition, proponents of Florida’s law point out that even if a few accidents can be prevented through the law, the law makes sense.
Opponents to the law suggest that the law unfairly targets elderly drivers instead of focusing on bad drivers specifically. Some states are creating education programs in order to help seniors drive safely. These programs remind elderly drivers to ensure that they are comfortable behind the wheel and know their own limits.
Laws regarding driving change rapidly in Florida and across the country, so regular testing, advocates claim, will at least ensure that elderly drivers are aware of the latest road rules. There is no indication from the University of Alabama at Birmingham research study whether all drivers would benefit from vision tests. There is also no indication as to whether injuries and not just fatalities may be prevented by the tests.