BERLIN -- Germany is once again considering the possibility of instituting mobility checks for older drivers. The impetus in this case was a recent accident in Berlin involving a 70-year-old driver who collapsed at the wheel and crashed into some parked vehicles.
According to police figures cited in the Berliner Morgenpost, a local paper, the number of accidents in the German capital involving drivers over 65 has been steadily increasing for years. The total number of accidents in 2011 involving seniors was 13,506 -- about 10% of all accidents in Berlin. In 2001, seniors were involved in just 7,374 accidents. Police claim that 64% of these accidents are caused by the seniors themselves.
Siegfried Brockmann, an accident researcher for an association of German insurers, called for mandatory mobility checks for older people. The checks would involve regular tests of driving skills with experienced trainers. Brockmann told the Berliner Morgenpost that the checks yield astonishing results, theyre the equivalent of a rejuvenation cure.
He also called for mandatory medical examinations. The results should remain confidential, but doctors could nevertheless use them to determine whether an individual is still fit to drive. There are no objective criteria as to whether someone is still fit to drive a car or not. Every doctor decides subjectively, said Brockmann. The expert believes the rising accident figures are a sign of changing demographics, and that in the next 30 years the number of accidents caused by seniors will be much higher.
Brockmann also said that the 65- to 75-year-old age group represented relatively little risk: in fact, they cause fewer accidents than beginning drivers. After 75, however, the risk rises sharply due to factors such as weaker vision, slower reactions and diminished capacity to gauge complex traffic situations accurately, according to the researcher.
Nevertheless, Germanys automobile association, ADAC, came out against legal measures. Many older people depend on a car to maintain a social life, Jörg Becker, the ADAC head of traffic, told the paper.
Along with regular medical check-ups, he said, seniors could stay ahead of the game by learning how to make better use of technology such as parking assistance programs and warning systems to head off collisions. The ADAC has been offering special driver training courses for seniors since February.
Read the full story in German by Dominik Ehrentraut
Photo - Pim Geerts
*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations