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Crashes involving elderly fall; year-old Katie’s law may change

A Dallas Morning News article details a drop in auto collisions involving elderly drivers since new laws were passed regarding licensing restrictions applied to drivers aged 79 or older. The modest drop in accidents may have advocates calling for more restrictions on elderly drivers. Here are excerpts from the article:

As data about the effects of “Katie’s Law” trickle in, the possibility of requiring more testing or adjusting the age cutoffs – and reigniting a charged debate over roadway rights – looms larger.

The law, named for a Dallas teen killed in an accident with an elderly driver, requires motorists age 79 and older to renew their licenses in person and undergo a vision test. Starting at age 85, drivers must renew every two years, instead of every six.

If office staffers observe shaking hands, trouble answering questions or other red flags, they can require a road test or ask for input from on-site medical examiners.

That debate rankles some seniors, who battled more stringent provisions included in draft versions of the legislation before endorsing the law, which Gov. Rick Perry signed in May 2007.

There are 483,730 drivers 79 and older in Texas, about 3 percent of the state’s registered motorists.

After Katie’s Law took effect, crashes involving those drivers declined slightly, according to preliminary figures from the state Department of Transportation.

Since Sept. 1, 2007, elderly drivers have been involved in 10,332 crashes, 96 of them fatal. Crash statistics since 2003 indicate that an average 12-month period includes 11,018 total crashes and 129 fatal accidents involving elderly drivers.

Despite those declines – 6 percent overall and 25 percent in fatal accidents – state officials caution that it’s too early to draw conclusions about the law’s effects. Many drivers are in the middle of their renewal period, so the law has yet to affect them.

Research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows seniors drive fewer miles than people in other age groups and are involved in relatively lower rates of police-reported crashes per capita.

But older drivers are involved in a relatively high number of crashes per mile. What’s more, seniors will probably account for one out of every four American drivers by 2030, a considerable jump from the current tally of about one in seven.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

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