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Older drivers and licensing in New York

Statistically, there are more elderly drivers on the road now than ever before. With the potential risk of accidents caused by the elderly, increasing attention has been paid to licensing requirements for aging drivers. The question can be difficult for loved ones who may find it difficult to take away a parent or grandparent’s keys. Legislators are also having a difficult time determining how to curb the rate of car accidents and injuries caused by elderly drivers.

The issue of elderly drivers on the streets has become more pressing since a 100-year-old man backed into a group of school children in L.A. last month. Though some drivers may start to notice failing abilities, others may not recognize their driving is impaired until it is too late. Now legislators are making an increasing effort to intervene to prevent serious car accidents and injury.

Licensing requirements for elderly drivers vary by state. While some states require that older drivers renew their licenses more frequently, taking additional vision or driving tests, others are not as proactive. Some states increase testing requirements at 65, others wait until the age of 80. The varying degree of state intervention seems to reflect the scientific uncertainty of when a driver has lost their abilities. Now the federal government is proposing that all states take measures to address the growing problem of older driver safety.

While age alone can impair driving abilities, most elderly drivers have lost skills because of other health conditions associated with age, including arthritis, dementia, slower reflexes and medication prescriptions. Because accessing medical conditions is complex, states will often use age as a proxy to determine a driver’s ability behind the wheel.

Crash rates among older drivers rises in the 70’s and then jumps at the age of 80. There is a correlation between age and accidents; however, teenagers and 20-somethings have worse records than elderly drivers. What do you think, should New York impose stricter licensing requirements for elderly drivers? Is there an age when drivers should be required to turn over their keys?

Source: Associated Press, “Older drivers face confusing array of license laws,” Lauran Neergaard, Sept. 17, 2012