One aspect of daily life that older people often find hard to give up is driving. We all know it is time to turn in the car keys when vision begins to fail or any other health condition becomes a factor. But some people hold onto the car keys a little too long if they don’t recognize their deteriorating health or in an effort to stay as independent as possible in their senior years. With the “baby boomer” generation expected to increase the sheer quantity of senior drivers in the next couple of decades, states across the nation are seeking a way to change regulations to make sure everyone’s driving safely into their golden years.
A recent article from USA Today discussed which states were making changes to assure older drivers were well enough to continue driving. According to Census projections, Americans aged 65 and older will jump from 39 million in 2010 to 69 million in 2030. Peter Kissinger, president of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, reported to USA Today that currently 15% of all drivers in the U.S. are 65 and older, but by 2025 approximately one quarter of all drivers will be over 65. Kissinger went on to say, “I really don’t think our society is ready for that. We are not ready with respect to the kinds of issues older drivers face.”
This is why some states have begun to try new methods of testing aging drivers to make sure they can navigate roads safely. California, for example, has begun issuing limited licenses which allow older drivers, after passing a test, to only drive on specific routes that they travel regularly. And Maryland passed a law allowing police, doctors, and residents to refer unsafe drivers to the Motor Vehicle Administration’s Medical Advisory Board to be evaluated.
States have already begun to reap the benefits of new testing for the elderly. After a Florida law was passed in 2004 that required older drivers to pass a vision test before getting a license renewed, the death rate among drivers 80 and older has gone down by 17 percent. Thomas Meuser, a gerontologist at the University of Missouri, believes new regulations should be put in place for older drivers, but does not want them to be stereotyped as lousy drivers. Meuser said, “Most older drivers are safe drivers. The challenge is older drivers with either subtle but progressive health issues that affect them without their knowledge.”
What do you think of testing elderly drivers more often before renewing a license?
Do you think all states need to adopt new methods of testing older drivers?