This is an article from the Law Offices of Cheryl David (http://www.cheryldavid.com/) in Greensboro, North Carolina, that we thought others may find helpful.
More older drivers are on the road than ever before, and they face a hodgepodge of state licensing rules that reflect scientific uncertainty and public angst over the question: How can you tell if it’s time to give up the keys?
The District of Columbia and 30 states focus on vision testing, making seniors renew their licenses more frequently than younger people. At what age? Maryland starts eye exams at 40, Georgia speeds up license renewals starting at age 59, but Texas takes the long view — keep a-driving through age 85 before anyone at a motor vehicles office balks.
Attention was drawn to the problem when a 100-year-old driver backed into a group of schoolchildren in Los Angeles, in the summer of 2012. As baby boomers age, the imminent surge in the number of senior drivers has the federal government proposing that all states take steps to address what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calls “the real and growing problem of older driver safety.”
Joseph Coughlin, head of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, helps develop technologies to help older people stay active. He says, “Birthdays don’t kill. Health conditions do.”
Healthy older drivers aren’t necessarily less safe than younger drivers, he adds. But such health issues as arthritis — which can make it challenging to turn one’s head to check the car’s blind spot — highlight that slower reflexes and the use of multiple medications may hamper older drivers. There’s no easy screening tool to spot people with subtle health risks.
Let’s look at the facts: Older drivers don’t crash as often as younger ones, perhaps because they drive less. About 60 percent of seniors voluntarily cut back and avoid driving at night, on interstates or in bad weather, according to David Eby of the University of Michigan’s Center for Advancing Safe Transportation Throughout the Lifespan.
However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety paints a different picture: If you measure by miles driven, the crash rate of drivers climbs for people in their 70s, with a sharper jump at age 80. Only teens and 20-somethings do worse.
So the challenge for seniors’ families is to help older loved ones stay safe but still get around for as long as possible. Federal estimates show that by 2030, there will be about 57 million drivers who are 65 or older.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers courses that teach seniors exercises to improve flexibility for checking blind spots and remind older drivers that they need to take extra care with left-hand turns, which become riskier as the ability to judge speed and distance wanes with age.
And what extra requirements are states implementing? Illinois is among the strictest because the state requires a road test to check driving skills with every license renewal starting at age 75; at age 81, renewals are required every two years instead of four. At 87, Illinois drivers must renew annually.
In Washington, D.C., starting at age 70, drivers must bring a doctor’s certification that they’re still OK to drive every time they renew their licenses. New Mexico requires annual renewals at 75. Iowa drivers who turn 70 must renew their license every two years instead of every five. Missouri asks 70-year-olds to renew every three years instead of every six.
Massachusetts throws in proof of an eye exam. But states like New Hampshire stopped requiring road tests at 75, calling the regulation discriminatory. So states also have to worry about age discrimination. However, other voices urge officials everywhere to study adding some form of competency screening to license renewals. There are plenty of studies that show that as we age, things change and we may not be aware of these changes.
Driverless cars, anyone? That’s one answer to an aging population.
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