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Elderly driver causes fatal accident, motivates parents to action

A 20-year-old Johns Hopkins University student was killed over the summer while riding his bicycle on University Parkway. An 83-year-old driver didn't notice him in the bike lane and struck him. While it is not clear whether this student's family filed suit alleging wrongful death, there can be little doubt that the young man's loss brought pain and suffering to his loved ones. Perhaps remembering him, the student's loved ones are now motivated to prevent future deaths.

Specifically, the young man's death has drawn attention to the potential dangers of Maryland's aging driver population. His parents testified in front of the Maryland General Assembly's House Environmental Matters Committee on the measures the State can take to ensure drivers that no longer have the mental and physical ability to drive remain off the road. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration reports that the number of drivers over 70 will double in 7 years and triple in 15.

from teen drivers, including restrictions on driving hours and passengers. Yet little has been done to protect those on the road from elderly drivers who, as a group, are more prone to cause car crashes due to declining skills and vision, slower reaction time and reduced mental acuity. While younger drivers are involved in more accidents, according to MVA statistics, drivers over 55 are more often at fault for the accidents in which they are at fault. As the age of the driver increases, so does the likelihood that he or she will be at fault in an accident.

Under current Maryland law, a police officer, physician, court or family member can refer older drivers to a medical advisory board if their driving abilities are questionable. The advisory board can then evaluate the driver's capability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Unfortunately, oftentimes an older driver's abilities are only questioned after a crash. Other states have created shorter renewal periods for drivers' licenses once a driver passes a certain age.

If the parents of this now deceased young man are successful, there will be more regulations in place in Maryland to prevent future fatal car crashes caused by elderly drivers that have lost the ability to drive safely.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Dangers of older drivers," Feb. 19, 2013.

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