How Old Is Too Old to Drive?

An elderly man going the wrong way on a highway causes a four-car pile up.

ByABC News
February 9, 2011, 7:56 AM

Feb. 9, 2011 — -- An elderly driver in a silver pickup truck careened down the wrong side of I-5 near San Diego, Calif., earlier the week with devastating results.

A video caught by another driver with a cell phone camera shows the pickup truck crashing into an oncoming car. Four other vehicles were caught in the pileup. At the wheel of the pickup truck was 83-year-old Clarence Kinney, who was driving on a suspended license. Police simply gave him a traffic ticket and ordered him to be re-examined by the DMV. No one was seriously injured.

It's a scene that has played out time and again on the nation's highways.

On I-95 near Philadelphia, an 84-year-old woman caused four accidents by speeding down the highway in the wrong direction. In the video caught by another car, cars can be seen weaving out of the way, trying to avoid a head-on collision. The woman somehow avoided being hit.

In Santa Monica, Calif., in 2003, an 89-year-old driver killed 10 people and injured 70 when he plowed through a crowded farmers market at 60 mph.

As baby boomers age, the risk for them getting into accidents goes up.

Seven states are now requiring drivers over the age of 70 who want to continue driving to pass a vision and medical test administered by their doctors.

After enjoying the freedom and independence of driving for decades, it can be heartbreaking for senior citizens to suddenly learn it is now too dangerous to let them behind the wheel.

Robert Hill was once an Air Force pilot but at age 84 he failed to prove to his doctor and daughter he could handle the highway.

"I tried. But I lost," Hill said.

Sooner or later, many elderly drivers will have to hand over their keys. The agonizing question for families is when is the right time?

To avoid arguments over driving, experts advise family members to raise the topic sensitively and to have the conversation over a long period of time. They also suggest having alternate transportation in place so older loved ones are not isolated at home, unable to get around.