It is not secret that elderly drivers face a host of challenges with which younger motorists aren’t yet contending. Reflexes can slow. Vision can dwindle. Hearing diminishes. Bodies become more frail, which means greater severity of injury when an auto accident does occur.
In the past, states routinely imposed driver restrictions that were based solely on one’s age. But now, advocacy groups are fighting back against this type of designation, saying it’s arbitrary and fails to take into account the individual’s ability. As people are living longer, many people are living healthier. The 70-year-old’s of today are much more active than the 70-year-old’s of even just 40 years ago. Consider that in 1970, less than half of people over the age of 65 had a valid driver’s license. Today, more than 85 percent do. These drivers also tend to have a fairly safe driving record. They also are generally healthier and their cars are safer than the elderly of generations’ past. Additionally, this cohort has an increasingly powerful — and vocal — advocacy base in organizations like the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the AARP.
In Florida, drivers who are 80-years-old or older when their current license expires can renew at the nearest office for the Department of Motor Vehicles, and only after passing a vision test. In some situations, written knowledge will be tested too. Some older drivers may have restrictions placed on their driver’s license if their vision is not up to the standard. That could mean allowing driving only during daylight hours or prohibiting driving during rush hour traffic.
But as the country prepares to face the fact that by 2030, an estimated 60 million older adults will be driving on our nation’s roads, a number of states have been rejected additional measures that would impose greater restrictions on older drivers. Part of that is because older drivers are increasingly viewed as safe drivers. There are also more programs in existence to help them better their driving skills. Plus, there have been a number of recent studies that seem to indicate that these types of arbitrary age restrictions aren’t as effective at curbing car accidents as was once believed. Then on top of that, you’ve got the AARP and AAA advocating on their behalf, arguing that DMV officials should be looking at more than just a driver’s age.
Among the states where such enhanced measures failed:
- Legislators in Vermont rejected a bill that would have required over-65 drivers to pass vision and road tests to obtain or renew their driver’s licenses.
- Lawmakers in Tennessee rejected a measure that would have required drivers over the age of 76 to take a driving test.
Those who are advocating for the elderly say that while it’s true that vision and reflexes and overall health can deteriorate with age, these types of arbitrary testing are a form of discrimination. There is no doubt that the laws vary widely from state-to-state, and enforcement of these rules is often spotty. It’s also been established that fatality rates among drivers over the age of 55 in states that require written or roadside tests or shortened renewal periods aren’t any lower as compared to other states.
Still, we do know that older drivers are more prone to be involved in certain types of collisions. One study by the Insurance Institute indicated elderly drivers were far more likely to be involved in car accidents at intersections and in those resulting from failure to yield.
Both the AARP and AAA support the concept of medical advisory boards, which would set uniform standards for state licensing agencies to assess at-risk drivers — not just those who have reached a certain age.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Curb elderly drivers? Not so fast, Dec. 25, 2016, By Jenni Bergal, Stateline.org
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