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Pro: Older drivers should retake driver's test

By by Dianna Wray - DWRAY@VICAD.COM
Feb. 26, 2012 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated Feb. 26, 2012 at 8:27 p.m.


Should older drivers be tested?

The day you turn 16 in Texas is the day you can finally take the test for that ultimate symbol of freedom - a driver's license.

As the law stands, that will be the last driving test you are ever legally required to take.

As you grow and age, your sight and reflexes may deteriorate, but the state will not test your ability to operate a vehicle or your knowledge of the rules of the road unless something alerts them.

More than 20 million drivers in the United States are older than 70, according to a 2009 Federal Highway Administration study. Elderly drivers are not found to be a significant danger to other drivers, but they are more likely to be seriously injured or killed if in a wreck, according the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

On reaching the age of 79, seniors citizens are required to renew their licenses in person. Those 85 and above must renew their licenses every two years. Their eyesight may be tested, but they aren't required to take a written test or a driving test. States may place restrictions on drivers based on their abilities, stating that they should not drive at night or on high-speed roads, but no driving restrictions are based solely on age. Should there be?

Older drivers should be required to take driving tests for safety reasons.

"You get older, your reflexes slow down and if you aren't tested often, you could have some impairment that will make them dangerous on the road," Tiffany Lankford, of Cuero, said.

Elderly drivers tend to be involved in certain types of accidents, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, particularly failure to yield the right of way.

While the number of fatalities has seen a steady decline in recent years, seniors are still the age bracket with the highest number of fatalities, according to a 2008 institute report.

Eddy Hollander, of Yoakum, agreed that elderly people should be tested.

"I think so. There are just too many accidents that could be prevented," Hollander said. "When you get older, your reflexes slow. You don't react as quickly."

When seniors are involved in these types of accidents, the chance of serious injury or death is much higher because their bodies are more fragile, according to a 2002 British Medical Association study.

Senses deteriorate as people age, according to the institute, and while they may deteriorate at different rates, elderly people are more likely to be taking medications that will impair their driving abilities in addition to the natural losses.

Debra Garner, the director of the Victoria County Senior Citizens Center, said she was in favor of having people of all ages tested regularly to make sure they are capable of safely operating a vehicle.

"I think it's something everyone should have to do," she said.

At 58, Hollander said, he has noticed his own reflexes are not as quick as they used to be. The state should require people to prove they can still operate a car safely once they have reached a certain age, to protect both elderly drivers and the other drivers on the road.

Lankford said she understands some elderly people may not want to give up their licenses because they don't have anyone else to take care of them, but a driving test would help those who may be unable to drive a chance of being evaluated and taken off the road.

"I can see both sides, but testing would be a good way to make sure they are still able to safely drive," she said.

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