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Elderly Drivers: A State by State Guide

The debate rages on in all states about elderly drivers. Every time an older driver is in an accident that seems preventable the general public questions if the driver is really capable to continue driving at their age. Mandatory elderly driving testing is slow to take effect in most states, as it is considered unfairly discriminatory. Studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that elderly drivers seem to make more bad vision or slow reaction time accidents. The NHTSA statistics show the only other age group with more incidents than drivers 65 and older were young and/or inexperienced drivers. One such statistic shows that elderly drivers are in frequent fatal left turn accidents. Apparently theories are that they cannot view and/or time accordingly the oncoming vehicle and thus cut in front of the oncoming car causing a serious at fault accident. As the driver gets older the statistics become much worse. Drivers 85 and older fatality rates are nine times higher than drivers 25 to 69.   

Some states do have different requirements for elderly or older drivers.  California requires drivers over 70 who are involved in two or more accidents in a year to re-test. Of course, this is a little too late to some, but can skirt some views of discrimination.

Arizona has an accelerated license renewal program for drivers over 65, requiring more frequent testing, and mail in license renewals are not allowed after the age of 70. Of other big states New York has no requirements of license renewal or mandatory testing due to age. In Texas if you are 85 and older license renewal is every two years, and if the driver is 79 and older mail in renewal is not allowed. Florida only requires a mandatory vision test for drivers 80 and older. Pennsylvania has probably the most unique age based driving laws, at least with regards to the larger populated states. Drivers 65 and older have the option to renew every two years as opposed to every four. There is a sort of lottery you don’t want to win if you are 45 and older. A random mailing to 1,800 drivers per month is sent requesting the driver to provide medical and vision tests prior to renewal. Possibly the strictest big state with regards to older drivers is Illinois. In Illinois drivers 69 to 80 must renew their license every four years, 80 to 86 every two years, and drivers 87 and up must renew annually. If the driver is 74 and older there is no renewal by mail allowed. Finally the strictest requirement, drivers 75 and older must submit to and of course pass a road test.

The American Association of Retired Persons leads the discrimination charge. The AARP feels that age should not be a determining factor in one’s driving ability. They protest that if seniors are to be re-tested solely based on age then so be it for other age groups. If a driver has a perfect driving record from 16 to 70, why should they be forced to re-test simply because of age? With the elderly population continuing to grow, and still drive, the debate will continue.     

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