By the year 2030, it’s expected more than 60 million adults over age 65 will be navigating our roadways. Given what we know about the challenges of driving as you age, one would assume states would be bracing for this by expanding programs that might restrict drivers who pose safety risks due to worsening vision, decreased reflexes, hearing loss, or cognitive decline. However, according to a new report from Stateline.org, sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trust, state lawmakers have become reluctant to restrict seniors’ driving licenses or impose any extra requirements to get them renewed based solely on age criteria.
Typically, older drivers have been subject to vision and road tests. However, advocates for the aging have become powerful political forces in recent years. For example, the AARP and AAA have argued forcefully that age should not be deemed the only indicator of an individual’s ability to drive a vehicle. And there are a growing number of programs that aim to help seniors safely navigate the roads. For the most part, insurance companies consider older drivers to be safe. Furthermore, it seems that the age-related restrictions aren’t actually as effective as it was once believed in reducing traffic deaths.
As one spokeswoman for the AARP said, states should not discriminate against older drivers simply because of their age. Instead, their overall ability and health is what should be considered. Meanwhile, the executive director for the Governors Highway Safety Association said another reason many states have been slow to pass additional age-based restrictions is that while people are living longer, our definition of what is “old” has morphed. Being 75 no longer means one is at death’s door. Seniors today are more active and are living much longer than previous generations. In fact, our nation recently elected its oldest-ever president, Donald Trump, who is 70. (Before that, Ronald Reagan, who took the oath of office at the age of 69, was the oldest.)
In the 1970s, about half of Americans over the age of 65 had a driver’s license. Today, almost 85 percent do. Most of them have good driving records.
In North Carolina, current law requires drivers age 66 and older to renew their license in person, and they must do so every five years, as opposed to every eight years, as required for younger drivers. The state also accepts requests from family members and others for the Department of Motor Vehicles to investigate reports of unsafe elder drivers. Road tests for older drivers are only required when there are some indications of driver impairment, as outlined in a report by a doctor, family member, or law enforcement agency.
But these restrictions were passed several years ago. More recent efforts to impose or expand restrictions across the country have faltered. A few states even allow more older people to get driver’s licenses or cut them some slack based on their age. In South Carolina, for example, a new law allows those with certain types of vision problems to obtain or renew their driver’s license if they use a special device on their glasses.
Still, there is no denying that the normal effects of aging do affect one’s ability to drive. As we mentioned earlier, vision, hearing, and reflexes are all affected. It becomes a matter of trying to balance their interests with their safety. Although their overall driving record is good, the reality is older drivers are at higher risk of a car accident than middle-aged drivers. Also, when they are involved in a wreck, they are more likely to be seriously injured or die than other age groups. One of the more recent statistics showed that in 2017, more than 5,700 people over the age of 65 were killed and another 221,000 were seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Curb elderly drivers? Not so fast, Dec. 25, 2016, By Jenni Bergal, Stateline.org
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