By the year 2015 about 3 million senior citizens in Atlanta Georgia will live in neighborhoods where access to public transportation is almost none and where no option other than driving exists to get around the city. This data is from Peter M. Haas, chief researcher scientist at the Center for Neighborhood Technology. Other top ten cities facing increasingly larger senior populations include: Riverside California, Detroit Michigan, and Dallas Texas.
Many states now are asking 70 year old seniors to retake a driver’s test. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, after drivers turn age 75 they tend to have accidents almost as often as teenagers. Then, seniors face more problems with increased auto insurance premiums or having the accident reported to their driving record. Although, a mature drivers course could help prevent either one of these from happening, and the senior would be eligible for a mature driver insurance discount
It has been reported that help for the mature drivers is on the way due to a MetLife poll and a Transportation for America (TFA) survey, both published in June 2011. The help is in the form of a federal program, and both the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) have the topic on their agenda. To be specific, 22 federal and/or public-private partnerships are also taking part in this assistance to aging drivers.
The TFA co-chairman John Robert Smith states that since the aging driver problem is “a problem of national scope, it requires a federal response.” It has been reported that Congress is standing by to release a new program for the mature drivers, and the Senate is looking at the idea of reviewing license renewal based on age and family recommendation. In the near future, seniors may be provided with federally compensated rides via a model called the Transportation Reimbursement and Information Program (TRIP), founded in California. However, Illinois and Massachusetts have already adopted it. In this program, volunteers are reimbursed to transport individuals in places where no transit service exists or when the individual is too frail or can’t otherwise utilize public transportation.
Also, TRIP provides a hot line to the Riverside County Office on Aging, HelpLink. This HelpLink gives out referrals to providers and sends out information to the elderly about the federal American Disabilities Act. The question is whether these should be federal programs. Even young drivers face numerous daily distractions and young drivers are tempted to multitask on the freeways as well. With all of the highway construction and new roads being built, the young and old drivers both face driving dilemmas. What happens if the aging senior gets into an accident? Will the senior’s auto insurance premium increase again or will the accident get added to his/her driving record? It is possible the senior may qualify for a mature drivers course and also qualify for a mature driver insurance discount.
Also, the popularity of ‘hailing’ a taxicab in cities like New York or Dallas is no longer a good option for seniors, as cab fees have skyrocketed. Some seniors have resorted to calling limo services where one can hire them by the hour or on a contract basis. Currently, a taxi or limo is not convenient. The Brooklyn, New York Yellow Cab Company demanded a fare hike in April 2011 in order to match rising gas prices. Now, taxi drivers are taking mature drivers a few blocks rather than across the city. It has been suggested that roving vans are necessary during rush hours to assist with senior rides, and that this would help in keeping less cars on the roadways. The regulatory agencies, commissions and councils and institutes need to step in here so that seniors can get the transportation that they need. As it stands now, the cost of alternative driver services is too high and this discourages entrepreneurial job creation. The question is when will the aging seniors get the help that they need right now?