First appeared in NewsBreak
By Aron Solomon
Dick Van Dyke is a beloved American TV star, particularly for those of us of a certain vintage. We remember his work as a trailblazer in TV comedy, star of his eponymous show, and all-around excellent comedian
Yet the 97-year-old Van Dyke was in the news this month for a decidedly un-comedic reason – running his Lexus into a gate near his Malibu home.
This has once again brought an important legal issue into the spotlight, the correlation between older drivers, accidents, and the need to review licensing procedures as drivers get older.
There have been several legal cases that have dealt with the issue of age and driving, but the arguments have typically focused on whether older drivers should be subject to additional testing or restrictions rather than a complete ban on driving after a certain age.
Here are a few examples of cases that have addressed this issue:
McGee v. Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (2006): This case involved a challenge to Florida’s requirement that drivers over the age of 80 must pass a vision test in order to renew their driver’s licenses. The plaintiff argued that this requirement was discriminatory and violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, the court upheld the requirement, finding that it was a legitimate safety measure.
Greenberg v. Miami-Dade County (2008): In this case, the plaintiff challenged a Miami-Dade County ordinance that required drivers over the age of 75 to take a medical exam in order to renew their driver’s licenses. The plaintiff argued that the ordinance was discriminatory and violated his rights under the ADA. However, the court upheld the ordinance, finding that it was a legitimate safety measure.
Curry v. Gore (2009): This case involved a challenge to Tennessee’s law that required drivers over the age of 65 to take a vision test when renewing their driver’s licenses. The plaintiff argued that the law was discriminatory and violated his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. However, the court upheld the law, finding that it was a legitimate safety measure.
It’s worth noting that these cases all dealt with challenges to specific requirements or restrictions imposed on older drivers, rather than a complete ban on driving after a certain age, which is something that Attorney Jason Matzus thinks is the way of the future:
“It makes little practical sense to ban people from driving when they hit a certain age. Having drivers prove competency beyond an age chosen by a given jurisdiction might be a way to balance the driver’s rights with our collective desire to have safe roads.”
Competency testing makes a lot of sense. While not all older drivers are less safe than younger drivers, the statistics tell a clear story:
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drivers over the age of 65 accounted for 18% of all traffic fatalities in 2019, and they also had the highest rate of fatal crashes per miles driven among all age groups.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that drivers over age 70 have higher rates of motor vehicle fatalities per mile traveled than any other age group.
According to a study published in the Journal of Safety Research, drivers over the age of 75 are more likely to be involved in crashes that result in injury or death than younger drivers.
Another study published in the Journal of Gerontology found that drivers over the age of 80 were more likely to be involved in accidents than drivers between the ages of 50 and 59.
Dick Van Dyke himself is very lucky, as this was not his first car accident. While this Malibu accident was extremely minor, a decade ago the actor was pulled from his burning Jaguar on a California freeway. Van Dyke was close to celebrating his 88th birthday when a Good Samaritan pulled him from his Jaguar. Photos from the accident scene revealed that he was very lucky to have survived.
About Aron Solomon
A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, Aron Solomon, JD, is the Chief Legal Analyst for Esquire Digital and the Editor-in-Chief for Today’s Esquire. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Aron has been featured in Forbes, CBS News, CNBC, USA Today, ESPN, TechCrunch, The Hill, BuzzFeed, Fortune, Venture Beat, The Independent, Fortune China, Yahoo!, ABA Journal, Law.com, The Boston Globe, YouTube, NewsBreak, and many other leading publications.