Howard DeMask of Apollo Beach, Florida, is 100 years old and still drives. Last month, he was headed to a beauty salon to pick up his wife of 75 years to the beauty salon, turned left and crashed into a motorcycle driven by 22 year old Timothy Mohammad Soliman. Soliman was taken to Tampa General Hospital hospital in critical condition. He had two broken arms, a broken knee, a broken ankle, and minor brain injury. Solimon was not wearing a helmet.
DeMask said he didn’t see Solimon coming: “It happened so fast.” He suffered only minor injuries and his car was totaled. DeMask’s grandson stated that had never been in a crash before in his life. Demask stated he wasn’t sure if he would drive again. His wife chimed in: “I don’t think he’ll be allowed to drive again.”
This car crash caused by an elderly gentleman brings attention to some important questions for Florida drivers. How old should a driver be when he should stop driving for good? There are 455 licensed drivers in Florida that are age 100 or older. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in Pinellas county, there are 39 centenarian drivers. In Pasco county, 22, and in Hillsborough county, 16.
The number of the next lower age group is much higher: there are about 65,000 licensed drivers ages 91 to 100 years old.
Although elderly drivers are stereotypically dangerous drivers, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports that drivers ages 90 years and older have the lowest crash rate in the state. The highest crash rate belongs to the 15 to 19 year old age group.
Florida Highway Patrol spokesperson Steve Gaskins says that Florida officials want to make sure that elderly citizens “maintain their driving independence as long as they continue to drive safely and confidently.” Specific laws apply to older drivers. For example, drivers who are 80 years old and older must renew their license every six years instead of eight and take a vision exam every renewal (every 6 years) instead of every other renewal (every 16 years).
Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad opines, “There’s a certain age when people probably shouldn’t be driving anymore.” While the accident caused by DeMask is certainly a tragedy, it seems that based on statistics, young drivers pose a larger safety concern than elderly drivers in Florida. What do you think? Should centurions be allowed to drive under the present regulations or should they be required to pass a driving test in order to renew their license?