All of us have had some sort of experience with an elderly driver on the road. Whether they are driving too slowly, making dangerous decisions at intersections, or weaving around the road, we have all wondered at some point: should old people be driving? Or should elderly drivers be retested to make sure everyone on the road is staying safe? There is no straightforward or easy answer to this question, but this article will discuss some of the pros and cons of retesting elderly drivers.
Elderly Driving Statistics
Approximately one out of every five drivers on the road is an older adult over age 65. The number is steadily increasing as seniors stay healthy and active longer as they age. The numbers get a bit complicated, but it boils down to this: seniors are more likely to get into an auto accident than those in the 40 to 65 age group, but they are still less likely to cause an accident than those in the under 40 age group.
The fatality and injury rate is higher for those over 65 who get in auto accidents but this generally attributed to seniors having other age-related challenges that make them more prone to injuries and make it harder for them to recover when they are injured.
Dangers of Elderly Drivers
As we age, we may experience changes in vision and motor function that make driving more difficult. Reaction times can slow down. Some medications may also affect driving ability. (You know how you always think of forklifts when you read those medicine labels that say “do not operate any heavy machinery while taking this drug?” They really mean cars.)
Pros of Retesting Elderly Drivers
There are some solid reasons why elderly drivers should be tested.
It increases road safety as those who are not safe are no longer licensed.
If an elderly person is having any issues or struggling to drive, those issues can be identified and accommodated so the senior can stay on the road.
Retesting keeps seniors aware of updated driving and safety laws.
Peace of mind for families who know their elderly loved ones are safe on the road and peace of mind for the public who share the roads with the elderly.
Download Our Home Safety Guide
Cons of Retesting Elderly Drivers
A driving test specifically for the elderly can be considered age discrimination and only increases the incorrect belief that seniors are bad or dangerous drivers.
A lack of standardized testing means results could be inconsistent or not accurate determinations of a senior’s driving ability. (Would you believe there are several states that don’t require a vision test to renew a driver’s license?!)
The support services needed to accommodate drivers who need assistance to pass their tests or who need help if their license is revoked are minimal or non-existent.
Requiring a re-test can cause stress and anxiety for a senior, especially since losing a license means losing a significant part of their independence.
The debate about retesting elderly drivers is ongoing and there is no good answer yet. The best we can do is monitor our elderly loved ones behind the wheel and make sure they have the support they need.