Questions about senior drivers discussed in Niles

Published 10:37 am Monday, July 21, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- News of the 86-year-old man who drove through a farmers' market in Santa Monica, Calif., killing 10 people and leaving 50 wounded, has reached local senior citizens.
Some of them were gathered at the Senior Citizens Center on Bell Road in Niles Friday morning.
Three of them shared their opinion about the incident and the questions that have been raised nationwide in relation to elderly drivers since the accident occurred.
Van Dyke, who avoids heavy traffic and makes sure her car is safe by having her children help her look after it, however, said some old people are less capable of driving than other elders.
She offers advice to those elders who want to drive but who feel they don't know how to decide if their vehicle is safe.
Van Dyke said it's important for older people to retain their independence.
Van Dyke said when old people don't have transport, it's as if a part of their life is cut off.
She said her two sisters don't drive anymore.
But although Van Dyke thinks it's important for elders to be able to get around, she underlines the importance of being physically fit for driving, which includes getting vision and reflexes regularly checked.
Bill Miles has driven a vehicle since he was 10.
The first vehicle the 73-year-old retired navy man drove was a 1930 Ford Model A his father bought for $25.
He doesn't think it is possible to put an age limit on when elders shouldn't be allowed to drive anymore.
Miles said he knows many examples of 80 to 90-year-olds who drive well and several examples of younger people who are bad drivers.
However, he does think at some point there should be a mandatory driving test for older drivers
Dick Reed, 64, who was among the youngest seniors at the senior center on Friday, agrees that there should be mandatory testing of elders' driving skills.
Although he too said everybody ages differently, Reed suggests 65 as an appropriate age to get driving skills re-tested.
Although some elders are no longer able to drive their own vehicle, or simply don't want to because they don't feel safe anymore, do still have ways of getting around.
Reed, who has extensive driving experience, is one of roughly 10 volunteers at the senior center who drive other senior citizens to the doctor and other places they need to go throughout the week. Seniors can call and request pick-up, but must do so 48 hours in advance.
He is looking forward to when the senior center receives its new van, which will have room for 12 passengers and will allow the more seniors to venture out on shopping trips.