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Pros And Cons Of Retesting Elderly Drivers

Pros and cons of retesting elderly drivers.

Currently, 29% of drivers on the road are “senior drivers”. (Federal Highway Administration)

There is (and I suppose always will be) an ongoing debate on the topic of when elderly drivers should stop driving.

Where older drivers may have more accidents because of the many reasons that can cause them to be unsafe, it’s actually younger drivers that have more fatal accidents. (source: adams-legal.com)

With statistics mentioned in this article – it’s easy to see how older drivers will fight the argument that not only should they continue driving, but because of their years of experience, they should not have to re-take a driving test.

But because I tend to focus on “safety” in all aspects of life – my personal opinion is that every driver should have to be retested more frequently than they currently are.

Not only for their own safety, but for the safety of others.

Should Older Drivers Be Retested?

In my honest opinion, “YES” – along with the rest of the driving population. Why make an exception?

It’s no secret that as we all get older our reflexes and senses naturally decline. It’s just part of aging, unfortunately. 

And just because it may not have happened to you when you’re 70, does not mean that it won’t happen to you when you’re 80.

In fact, the average age that many older adults stop driving is somewhere between 70 and 80.

These issues coupled with other factors such as medical conditions and medications all play a part in making driving a more difficult task for older adults.

Every state within the USA has their own set of rules when it comes to renewing a drivers license but it seems that most states do begin increasing the frequency of those renewals starting around age 70.

The renewal process is also different from state to state.

Most simply require a vision test or a note from your Optometrist or Opthamologist that your vision is good enough for driving.

Believe it or not, there are some states that do not require any proof of adequate vision, no matter how old you are!

So, I would say to be extra careful driving in these states.

Most European countries require the driver to pass a medical examination in order to renew their drivers license.

Again, many begin this requirement around the age of 70.

It’s important to note the results of a study comparing elderly drivers in Finland (where medical exams are required) and elderly drivers in Sweden (where medical exams are not required)…

A comparison of Finland and Sweden shows no apparent reduction in crashes as a result of the Swedish programme. However, Finland had a higher rate of fatalities among unprotected older road users than Sweden, arguably the result of an increase in the number of older pedestrians who had lost their driving licence.

ec.europa.eu

This and another study seem to show that retesting elderly drivers does not necessarily decrease the number of accidents and fatalities on the road.

But with so few tests it would be prudent to see if these results could be replicated within other populations.

Despite this information, my opinion is that it seems that getting a thorough driving test every year or two would make sense to not only assess a driver’s current skills but also to alert the driver of any limitations they may have and to simply get a refresher on the rules of the road.

I can use myself as an example.

I just took the Smart Driver Course which is an online driver safety course by the AARP. It’s a 6 hour course of videos and slides and of course testing of your knowledge of driving laws.

I have been driving for 46 years and I have to admit – there were a few rules that I had forgotten about (or maybe never learned). 

So it was a good refresher course.

Reasons Why Elderly Drivers Should Be Tested & Retested

Although many older adults do not want to believe that they are unsafe drivers – it’s also very difficult for them to give up their driver’s license.

My 100 year old mom-in-law had to renew her license 4 years ago in Florida and she was terrified that they were going to test her and take her license away. (She passed the visual test so her license was renewed)

The number of drivers age 70 and older is growing. Older people make up a bigger proportion of the population than they used to, and their share continues to grow. In addition, older drivers are keeping their licenses longer.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS

Not sure about you, but I would be a bit nervous knowing that the car next to me on the road is being driven by someone who is 100 years old!

The truth of the matter is, that we all change as we grow older and as a result, our reaction time, vision and hearing all change.

Therefore, more thorough testing of these issues would help to keep more people safe, whether they are the driver, the passenger or others on the road.

Some Reasons Why Older Drivers Should Be Re-Tested

  • Our bodies change as we grow older – it’s no secret that as we age, we will begin to lose some function. Things like, hearing, vision and reflexes will alter. Even our reasoning and judgement and how we process information will change. All of these affect our driving skills and can contribute to an accident.
  • Medications – many older adults take medications, some take many. These can cause some side effects which can cause an elderly driver to react slower, to get confused, etc.
  • Cognitive issues – such as Alzheimer’s and dementia can severely impair someone’s ability to function safely behind the wheel of an automobile.
  • Vision – many older drivers have trouble driving in the rain, at night or even during times when there is too much glare from the sun. All of these issues plus any problems reading road signs due to vision can all lead to an accident.

Read more about 10 signs that tell you it’s time to stop driving!

Reasons Why Elderly Drivers Should Not Be Retested

My personal opinion is that all drivers should be tested on a more frequent basis than is currently being performed not only because of physical and cognitive changes but also because many drivers become complacent (it’s just human nature).

So, being forced to re-acquaint ourselves with driving laws and skills can only help us all to be better drivers.

There truly is no logical reason (that I can think of) as to why an elderly driver should not be retested on a yearly basis.

Final Thoughts

The pros and cons of retesting elderly drivers is fairly cut and dry.

The pros include all the reasons that could contribute to making an older driver more dangerous on the road. Reasons such as changes in vision, hearing and reflexes.

Side effects of medications as well as issues related to cognitive decline all play a part in making someone a more dangerous driver.

The cons are essentially none.

Retesting elderly drivers (and other age groups as well) is simply a reasonable expectation to keeping not only drivers and their passengers safe but also others on the road as well.

Safe driving is important for seniors everywhere and although road rules may be slightly different from country to country – the general rules of driving safely apply everywhere.

The following Infographic comes from the website of Hussey Fraser.

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