Two weeks ago, I presented some situations involving the elder group of drivers. That included accidents related to diminishing awareness/reflexes/vision or health problems, aging drivers’ reluctance to give up the driving privilege, and even some apt remedies for these dilemmas.
As is typical, readers followed that column up by emailing me some of their own insights.
Many, as I expected, suggested some form of mandatory retesting at a given age, as only two states now do. Illinois and New Hampshire require drivers aged 75 and above to take a road test when renewing their licenses. Several other states prohibit by-mail renewal at around age 70, but most states have no separate requirements for renewal based strictly on age.
Some states, such as Idaho and Washington, require in-person renewals after age 65, where license agency examiners give vision tests and perform subjective screening for other health deficiencies like hearing or dementia. At that point, the examiner can order a road test for the driver in question.
I do subscribe to the need for more retesting on the road for drivers past a certain age, and many readers feel the same way. J.H. (age 85) was the first to let me know how he felt, stating, “I thought you might have mentioned retesting after a certain age — say 75. Both taking the written test and also being retested for driving skills as one is when first licensed. I certainly would be in favor of that and would be happy to pay for the retesting. It’s too easy now and people I know who shouldn't be driving have had no trouble getting their license renewed for another 5 years.”
J.H. is a conscientious older driver who also declared, “I have taken the AARP refresher course, and do so every two years, and I took the online 8 hour course offered by USAA to increase awareness to not only what’s ahead of me but also peripherally.”
Reader D.D. concurred, and added,” Personally, I think this is the answer — a driving test every year after you reach the age of XX or get some number of tickets after the age of YY.”
S.R. added another dimension to the debate, faulting a lack of infrastructure providing alternative transportation for elders. She explained, “They drive, because our infrastructure is not designed for [elderly] drivers. In Germany, the older people don’t drive. Now, they have easy bus access, in the cities they have easy subway or surface light rail, and inexpensive alternatives. As I understand it, the local funeral homes actually host social meetings for older people and give them rides to places that are best gotten to by car. For our oldest citizens, they can’t go anywhere if they don’t drive or tie themselves to someone else’s schedule.”
B.M. (80-plus) spoke of admitting to one’s diminishing abilities, and warned of being a “Type A” driver. He gave a couple to tips to avoid that latter condition, writing, “While living in Montana, we had a safety session with the Flathead County sheriff about safe driving. I wrote to you about the two points which really stuck in my brain. 1: Always stop behind a vehicle so that you can see the bottom of the vehicle’s tires in front of you creating a safe distance between you and that vehicle in case you are bumped from behind. 2: Count to two after the vehicle in front starts to move to create a safe distance in case that vehicle suddenly stops.”
He added, “On the other hand, I’ve ridden with people in my age range or older who are Type A persons, who make me nervous when I’m in the co-pilot’s seat. They stop right up against the person in front of them and are just waiting for the starting gun to go off.”
Whatever the prudent solutions might be for advanced-aged drivers, the advice I advocate for all drivers is to simply devote all of your conscious effort to the task while at the wheel. Too many drivers become complacent and succumb to mental and physical distraction, causing themselves and others to become victims of crashes.
Readers may contact Bill Love via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.