Lawrence auto accident data
A look at the frequency, locations and other factors involved in wrecks in Lawrence.
Young people in Lawrence catch a lot of flak for their driving habits, but experts say another group of people can be just as dangerous behind the wheel: the elderly.
Only 3 percent of all accidents in Lawrence were caused by people 70 years or older. That’s a relatively small number compared with the 25 percent caused by people between the ages of 19 and 23. But Paul Atchley, a Kansas University associate professor of psychology, said because older people tend to drive fewer miles and often cause more severe accidents, that number could be a little misleading.
He said older drivers were more likely to get into accidents in intersections and more likely to die as a result. Younger drivers, he said, more commonly do things such as fail to yield the right of way, which often happens at slower speeds and doesn’t result in such serious injuries.
Delbert Thomas, supervisor at the driver’s license bureau in Lawrence, said family members, doctors or police officers many times require older drivers to get evaluated because of a fear they no longer are driving safely. Part of Thomas’ job includes on-the-road testing for these elderly drivers.
“You know very fast when it’s not safe to be with them,” Thomas said. “When you’re putting along at 25 and everyone’s zippin’ around and you ask them to get over in the left lane and they zip over without looking, you know it’s time to call it a day.”
For many seniors, giving up the right to drive means relinquishing their independence. No more driving to the grocery store. No more driving to the doctor. No more driving to see friends, to get coffee, to see a grandchild’s T-ball game.
“With an older person, that’s the last vestige of their dignity, personally,” Thomas said. “It’s hard to give up your license after you’ve had it for 60, 70 and 80 years. It’s tough.”
After having surgery for macular degeneration five years ago, Betty Bunce, now 81, said her family took her keys away because they felt she was no longer able to drive. After more than 60 years of driving, Bunce said the change was extreme.
“It’s like taking half of your life away, it really is,” Bunce said. “I have to depend on my husband for everything, to take me wherever I need to go. He says he doesn’t mind and maybe he really doesn’t, but there are times where I’m sure he’d rather stay home.
“I’d give anything if I could get in the car and drive somewhere.”
Martha Bean, supervisor for the Driver Review section of the Kansas Department of Revenue, said there were signs to look for when determining whether an older person may no longer be a safe driver:
• If older family members return home with dings and dents in their car that they don’t seem to notice or talk about, perhaps they are getting into accidents without realizing it.
• If seniors begin to show signs that they just don’t understand the rules of the road or feel that the rules no longer apply to them.