America is getting older...baby boomers moving toward their twilight years, and all of us living longer lives. The government estimates by 2030, 20 percent of the population will be 65 and older. Many of them will be behind the wheel.
Ninety-eight-year-old Martha Glynn thinks she knows how to do it safely.
"My family calls me Miss Independence," she says. "When I want to go, at the time when I want to go, then I'll go."
You might say she's had some 83 years of driving practice, and, in all that time, not one ticket. There have been a number of fender benders and some changes in the way she drives
"When I'm on the expressway, they just fly by me," she says.
There are 214 drivers between 95 and 99 years old still licensed in the seven counties nearest Lansing. (That's Eaton, Ingham, Clinton, Shiawassee, Livingston, Hillsdale, and Jackson). There are 11 who are 100 or older.
Glynn says, "When the time comes, I would give up driving, but I'd be a very sad person."
That decision is part of the mission of AARP. Their "55 Alive" class is designed to help seniors access their driving. Their mission is to create safer drivers, and be sure that drivers who are unsafe are aware of their shortcomings.
Those shortcomings are measured in statistics. A 2002 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study says nine percent of the population was over 70 that year. Elderly people caused 12 percent of traffic accidents, and 17 percent of pedestrian accidents. As far as a danger to themselves, a 2004 study of 25 years of accidents in Texas showed the risk of death from an accident is 4 times higher for drivers 85 and over than it is for drivers 55 to 60.
The state says they're just as concerned about young drivers as they are about elderly ones. They accept referrals from anyone who's concerned about a driver of any age. They test about 4,000 Michigan seniors every year. They revoke about half those licenses, but they won't mandate an age when that is necessary.
"I don't think you can put old people in a bunch," Glynn says. She says she's like the state to test senior drivers, but she's equally sure she's proof that age isn't the only way to see it.
Try these Web sites for more information:
http://www.michigan.gov/sos (Under publications, click on "Driving for Life" under the "Drivers License and State ID" banner.)