By on March 10, 2011

One of the eternal battles of the car world has broken out in New Hampshire, where angry seniors have introduced a bill [HB 549] to remove that state’s requirement of annual driving tests for motorists over the age of 75. According to the New Hampshire Union Leader,

In 2008, 1,088 state residents 75 or older failed the road test. In 2009, the number rose to 1,405, and in 2010, there were 615 failures through October… New Hampshire and Illinois are the only two states that require license-renewal applicants 75 and older to take a vision test and a road test. Nine states require some form of vision test. Maine requires one at first renewal after age 40.

The AARP and angry seniors say the elderly do not actually cause more crashes than young people, and in  recent years, the New Hampshire accident statistics bear them out, as 16-25 year-olds were involved in around 10 percent of crashes there in 2008 and 2009, while the 66-75, 76-85 and 86+ cohorts each accounted for around 2-4%. But then, those statistics are based on years in which over a thousand seniors were denied the right to drive… without the law, it’s hard not to argue that those numbers could be higher. But seniors call testing “age discrimination” and say the tests often fail good drivers who become nervous and allow poor drivers to pass.

Given that your state likely doesn’t have a mandatory senior driving test law, would you support one? Is mandatory vision testing enough? What about mandatory video games? Or, should government stay away from age-based conditions on drivers licenses?

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70 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Annual Driving Tests For The Elderly?...”

  • avatar

    Assuming that the worst young drivers have also been removed from the road through license suspension, insurance/parent denial or lack of funds to sustain a car (i.e. meth addict), then the accident statistics would be higher for the young demographic.

  • avatar

    as 16-25 year-olds were involved in around 10 percent of crashes there in 2008 and 2009, while the 66-75, 76-85 and 86+ cohorts each accounted for around 2-4%

    That doesn’t seem like it’s based on per mile traveled.   I’d imagine the median 85 yo drives significantly less than the median 25 year old.

  • avatar

    This is a question close to my heart right now. At 72, my father has started losing the capacity for rapid decision making required to drive correctly (we’ll leave “safely” out of the discussion for now) in an urban environment. Last time I drove with him on the freeway, he was doing 45 in the slow lane on the freeway, in 4th (of 5) gear, and we won’t even talk about how he merged.
    On the other hand, he lives out in the boonies, and is perfectly capably of navigating the 2-lane roads to and from everywhere he needs to go. And he has sense enough to confine himself to them. If he lost his license and the self-mobility which goes with it, the only real option for him would be to move in with either me or my sister, or possibly for me to move in with him (something that all of us are willing to accomodate, but none of us want).
    Ultimately, I think the testing has to happen. They can scream “age discrimination” all they want. Reality is that people lose reaction time and decision making ability as they age, and no amount of political rhetoric is going to change that. Yes, some older drivers will be judged unfairly by the system. That’s not unique to this situation. ANY “one size fits all” standard will judge some people unfairly. There’s just as much “age discrimination” excercised on the other end of the driving-age spectrum, but that demographic group has no political clout, so it not seen as a negative. I was no better a driver at 17 when I got my license than at 12 when I learned how to drive. And if anything, my judgement had gotten worse.

  • avatar

    How about this- the very young and the very old are both a menace. Both groups need to curbed.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    As someone who is 13 years away from the “testing age,” I don’t have a problem with this, assuming it’s a meaningful test.  I would say that, in most states in which I have experienced the test given to new drivers: Virginia, DC, Texas, the test is NOT meaningful, in terms of keeping incompetent drivers off the road.  In fact, in the old days (i.e. before the ubiquity of power steering and automatic transmissions), the sheer physical difficulty of operating a car probably did a fair job of keeping unqualified oldsters off the road.
    I also can recall from my own personal life, aged family members who refused to quit driving when they should have, causing their spouses, children and grandchildren to enlist the aid of all kinds of people in this effort — principally medical doctors.
    Of course it’s discrimination; that’s the whole point.  Would any of the bill’s opponents like to be one of the handful of oldsters who plowed through a crowd of people because they hit the gas when they meant to hit the brake and were, um . . . a little slow . . . in correcting their error?
    I sure wouldn’t want to be that person.  The common trait that I have noticed is that these nice and well-meaning folks consistently underestimate their diminished capacity.

  • avatar

    I think you have wasted about 269 words. The answer is yes.
    We have a “bathtub” curve, where younger and older drivers are severely over-represented in crashes and other safety events. We know that it is either age or inexperience that is the major causal factor in the younger age group’s risk. We are also fairly certain it is physiological issues that are the result of the older age group’s risk. As a country, we need yearly testing for older drivers just as much as we need yearly training for younger drivers. Unfortunately, there is an extremely powerful lobby that will make sure the former never happens.

    • 0 avatar

      All I can say is, I had an elderly neighbor once over age 80 (now deceased)  who only drove around the area (few miles tops) and yet her car was CONSTANTLY in the body shop as she had hit this or that.  Driving is a privilege, not a right.


  • avatar
    John R

    I don’t have a problem with yearly tests after the age of 75 provided that they are fair. In fact, I believe it should be required of all states.
    I wonder, though, do these stats include elderly license holders who simply do not drive anymore? My mother is knocking on 70, has a license but hasn’t turned a wheel in over ten years. I imagine the ratio is larger for licensed non-drivers over the age of 75 versus non driving 16-25 year-olds – if there is such a thing.

    • 0 avatar

      Good point. And a driver such as your mother probably has had her driving skills atrophy to the point where she should not get behind the wheel again without being tested. A use it or lose it law might be good. But how to prove you’ve used it? So again we’re back to periodic testing.

    • 0 avatar

      I know some states also have “non-driver’s” licenses, which simply serve the same function as driver’s licenses do in terms of being a catch-all ID, only you aren’t allowed to drive. Maybe she wants to look into one of those?

    • 0 avatar

      My mother turned in her license in her early 70s and got a non-license state ID

  • avatar

    Having seen numerous instances of inept elderly driving in the large metropolitan area in which I live I’m 100% in favor of annual elderly driving tests.
    The fact of the matter is that there are elderly drivers that should no longer be allowed to drive and annual driving tests would remove them from the roads. Driving a vehicle is not a right it’s a privilege. Everyone knows your reaction time diminishes with age and some of these elderly drivers are endangering not only themselves but others too. To me, to say this amounts to age discrimination is to deny the fact that age plays a large role in someone’s ability or lack thereof to safely drive a vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re the second person to write that driving is not a right, but a privelege. You’re both wrong. The government isn’t in business to dispense priveleges. The only justification for licensing is public safety. Otherwise, every citizen has the right to move about freely, by whatever means they choose. People can complain about “fairness” or “age discrimination” all they want, but the government’s responsibility is to issue licenses that certify the ability to safely drive a motor vehicle on public roads ONLY to people who qualify by reasonable standards. Just keep the “privelege” discussion out of it.

  • avatar

    A law that prohibits seniors to drive is discrimination.
    A law that requires seniors to pass a driving test is not. It’s a discrimination against incapable drivers, which is OK and intended.

    BTW, people under 18 are not allowed to vote. Is that a discrimination?
    The sad part is that they aren’t even given the right to pass certain kind of test to prove their IQ/EQ/whatever for voting rights.

    • 0 avatar

      Of course it’s discrimination.  Look at our lowest common denominator society.  What isn’t discrimination?
      Testing employees before hiring them is discrimination.  Promoting employees based on testing is discrimination.  Requiring lady cops to meet physical test standards is discrimination.   Looking at credit ratings to determine credibility is discrimination.  Looking at SAT tests to determine college eligibility is discrimination.
      No price is too high to keep pretending apples are really oranges.  This won’t get anywhere either.

  • avatar

    The statistics do not really show a problem here. While many of us have been inconvenienced by slow elderly drivers, that is no reason to take their right to drive away from them.

    • 0 avatar

      First, there is no ‘right’ to drive.  Second, there is no reason that seniors should be sanctioned to drive by the state if they are not able to drive competently and with the flow of traffic.  It’s not just that ‘oh, I was held up by that old guy who was doing 45 on the freeway’.  It’s that that 45 presents a significant safety hazard.
      I know that ‘data is not the plural of anecdote’, but frequently, accidents and incidents *caused* by bad driving do not *involve* the bad driver.  Many times, it’s the evasive action other people are forced to take to avoid bad or slow drivers that causes their accident, but they don’t actually hit the bad driver.  They hit the guy in the next lane, or the tree on the side of the road, or the traffic barrier.  And the menace driver continues blithely on their merry way.
      It is an indisputable fact that as one gets older their reflexes slow, their information processing slows, their vision degrades, their motor control degrades.  All of these things contribute to the inability to handle the routine situations that come up when driving.  It’s certainly no violation of a ‘right’ to make sure that people meet a minimum standard to be allowed on public roads.

    • 0 avatar

      Many times, it’s the evasive action other people are forced to take to avoid bad or slow drivers that causes their accident, but they don’t actually hit the bad driver.  They hit the guy in the next lane, or the tree on the side of the road, or the traffic barrier.
      Sounds like bad driving all around.  Just stay in your lane and brace for impact if you weren’t paying enough attention to your surroundings to have already determined a safe escape route in the event that something unforeseen happens.  But how often does something unforeseen even happen with a three second following distance?

  • avatar

    We should have driving tests every 4-5 years for everybody with a license, regardless of age, and the requirements for getting a driver’s license should be much stricter than they currently are. There are too many idiots out there with licenses.
    I’d also be interested to see a “crashes per mile driven” statistic for young drivers vs. elderly drivers. As was already mentioned, I can’t imagine most people over the age of 70 are racking up more miles than your average 20 year old. My grandfather only gets in his car 2-3 times a week, and I don’t think any of his trips are in excess of 30 miles round trip.

    • 0 avatar

      You are asking the right question. Measuring risk takes both how often it happens and how often it could happen. That is why older drivers are overrepresented in terms of VMT (vehicle miles traveled).

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure crashes per mile is relevant. I do think good driving tests for everyone, or perhaps just for elderly people would be fair. But I question the ability of the US state gov’ts to do a good and fair job of testing.
      I wouild like to see some sort of special plate for elderly people–an O plate–so that other drivers could be more careful and courteous around them. Given how difficult it is to live in our country without driving, I think every effort should be made to make driving easier for the elderly.
      My father’s driving ability fell somewhat late in his life, but then I thjink taking up tennis again in his last couple of years helped boost his driving skills.

    • 0 avatar

      Reading from the top as a latecomer to this post, this is the best comment so far. 

      I say raise the speed limit from 65mph to 75mph (I am in California), and test every driver every two or three years, and the revenue from driving tests would offset the need to install red light cameras everywhere.

  • avatar

    An old guy in a Buick ran 28 people over in Ca,  killing a few. This happens. We all know this isn’t discrimination, it’s prevention. My grandfather had 4 accidents in 6 months and finally the insurance premiums, along with a doctor’s intervention, got him grounded.
    I ride motorcycles and bicycles on those two lane back roads. I want drivers behind me to be able to react and make decisions at 70 feet per second. Reaction time tests might actually convince a few that it’s time to take the bus.

  • avatar

    Absolutely not. This is utter nonsense. Irresponsible drivers, inattentive drivers, overconfident drivers and just plain bad drivers know no boundaries – age, sex, income or zip code. That being said, if the nanny state wants to get out its broad brush, it can bloody well take a cue from the insurance industry and start with the youngest drivers.

    The state of driver education and testing is appalling in this country. A quick parallel park, a highway merge, and you and your hormones have got a license to kill. Flying, as we all know, is statistically much safer than driving. Could the rigours of pilot education and certification play some small part in that? I would bet my lunch money they do.

    There’s no point retesting people over age X if a) the testing is bogus anyhow, and b) no inquiry is made into the pass rates of people between initial licensing and X-1. Honest to God, to think that marginalizing senior citizens is a valid priority for any government in this country is ridiculous given the state of their budgets, their health care regimes… it is ageist, no other word for it.

  • avatar

    …there’s no reason why age discrimination need enter into the equation at all:  require all drivers to complete semi-annual vision and driving tests, regardless of age, problem solved…

    • 0 avatar

      Semi -annual i.e. every 6 months is way too frequent but as said above every 5 years would make sense for all drivers. In my mind it wouldn’t be a direct pass fail i.e. if you fail you’re immediately taken off the road but more a you’ve pass or you need to work on the following comeback in X weeks

  • avatar

    This report from NHTSA provides crash involvement rate by driver age (and sex!). It isn’t the most recent thing, but it was the first thing to come up.

    • 0 avatar
      montgomery burns

      Good find.
      Just took a quick look at the charts. So although crash’s go down look at the fatality rate. Depending how you measure it, it’s close to or the same as the youngest drivers.
      Also good point from above: how many older, licensed drivers don’t drive? my father had AZ and had a valid license long after he didn’t drive anymore.
      An lastly how many older drivers have small crashes that don’t get reported to the police because they backed into a family member/next door neighbors car/fence post/tree/garage or whatever?

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    As someone who’s in his 60s, I have no doubt whatever that abilities diminish over time and testing makes sense to me, perhaps every two or three years. Maybe more often past 75. But my sense is that, while admitedly oldsters are a problem, at least they’re not likely to text message, cell phone, eat, etc. while driving. In other words,  “others” are also a problem. Maybe everyone should be retested every five years.  What I’m getting at is that to focus solely on seniors, you end up letting a lot of  guilty parties off the hook. For example, haven’t we all heard of multiple DUI-convicted drivers still being licensed to drive? Frankly, I see a lot of bad driving in all age groups, perhaps worse than ever. No turn signals, no lights on in driving rain storms, driving slowly in the left lane, weaving, etc. Perhaps you’ve noticed? 

    • 0 avatar

      This is an empty chair argument.  There are plenty of initiatives that are targeting distracted driving, reckless driving, drunk driving, and other impaired driving.  It’s not that seniors are being ‘singled out’.    And just because other problems exist doesn’t mean that no action can be taken against a specific problem.
      Sure there are other bad drivers.  But that other people aren’t getting stopped or improving their driving as much as you’d hope doesn’t mean that we need to let seniors who have lost the skills necessary to drive safely with other traffic continue to be a hazard as well.

  • avatar

    I agree and disagree on this. I’m 60 and it comes down to driving ability and medical condition. Anything that becomes a connection between the government and a person’s doctor where driving is concerned will stir up a potential hornet’s nest of gov’t intrusion and “Big Brother” issues. My wife and her brothers had to step in and take the keys away from their father who was in the early stages of what manifested itself into Alzheimer’s. Not pretty, but the family should step up and make difficult decisions such as this in connection with the afflicted one’s doctor and handle things on that level. Now on the other hand, if the family lives elsewhere, a whole new can of worms may open because in cases like these, the spouse often doesn’t recongize or refuse to recognize that there is a problem. Regardless, children have a responsibilty to care for aging parents and I certainly hope our kids will watch our backs when that time comes. Boy, I go out of town on business for a day or two and this is what I come back to! Man, TTAC, you’re the best!

  • avatar

    I don’t think this is an age thing – I see plenty of candidates for re-testing every day during my commute.  However, there are several problems with this plan:
    1. I have lived in several states and taken several driving tests over the years, and have yet to see a DMV driving test that even scratched the surface of testing driving competence.  I was first licensed in Germany, and THAT was a driving test.  I took a test in Florida that literally required me to back out of a parking space, make a quick loop around the DMV parking lot, and park back in the same space.  It took under 5 minutes, and there were plenty of people of all ages taking the same test.  We need to actually test the skills of all drivers as a first meaningful step.
    2. For a big chunk of the US population, losing the ability to drive is a jail sentence if not worse.  My in-laws live 20 miles from the nearest grocery store, and one of them is no longer capable of driving.  It’s going to be bad news when my father-in-law can’t drive anymore – they’re going to have to pay somebody to bring them supplies and/or drive them around to run errands, and that ain’t cheap.  With today’s economy, it’s not like they can just sell their house and move somewhere easier.  And due to various policies and government decisions, public transportation in most of the USA is absolute crap if it exists at all.  (I’m not getting into a political discussion of who’s to blame here, just stating an objective fact)
    It would be really easy to just say everybody over 70 needs to get tested regularly, but it would scare the hell out of me to be 80 years old and facing a driving test to see if I’m going to continue to be self-sufficient or completely lose my quality of life.  And that policy unfairly excludes all of the people between 18 and 70 who probably shouldn’t be permitted to ride in the front seat of any moving vehicle.
    Instead, let’s develop a national standard for driving competence and test people every 10 years.  Enforce it uniformly, include an appeals process, and figure out how to help the people who lose their ability to drive.  Maybe a graduated license plan where they’re only permitted to drive during daylight hours, avoid freeways, etc might help.
    Think about where you live right now.  What would happen to your ability to earn money, go shopping, connect with others, etc if you had your keys taken away?  I would be utterly, completely screwed, along with my family.  Even if i wanted to take public transit to work, I would have to somehow cross the 15 miles from my house to the nearest bus stop that might eventually lead me to arriving at work.  It used to only be 5 miles, but that route was cancelled.
    So before we just heap derision on the people unhappy with this policy, it might be a good thing to imagine ourselves in 40 or so years and figure out how we would deal with this.  Most of us are going to get old at some point, and the fact that the current crop of old people didn’t give this much consideration until it was too late doesn’t excuse us from the same responsibility.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      So what?

      Nobody is taking keys from safe drivers, so the good drivers shouldn’t have any problem with that.

      If someone isn’t a safe driver, they shouldn’t be on the roads, simple as that. They can walk or take the bus.

    • 0 avatar

      @ScottMcG – a thoughtful and well reasoned response.
      I agree.  Testing every year would be too burdensome, but a test every 10 years for general competence is a good idea.  Too many people tailgate, or don’t signal when they turn, or don’t know it’s legally required to use their headlights if they have their wipers on.
      I also like the idea of a graduated license.  Also, we have signs on cars that say “Student Driver.”  A sign, or a more discrete plate, could signal “Senior Driver.”

    • 0 avatar

      If the re-test is as easy as the first test, then a driver would really have to be losing his physical abilities in order to fail.  I don’t see what’s wrong with that.

    • 0 avatar

      @SVX Pearlie: No, that was my point.  For many, many people in the USA there is no way for them to get anywhere without a car.  If you live in a major city and have good public transit, then quitting driving isn’t as big a deal.  If you live in pretty much any suburb anywhere in the USA, you’re screwed if you can’t drive.  Forget it if you live in a rural area.
      If you’re 70 years old – or even 30 – and have literally miles between your house and everything you need to survive, you’re damn well going to hold on to that drivers license and car as long as you possibly can.  It’s 7 miles from my house to the nearest place to buy food, and I live in a fairly populated area with no public transit.  If I couldn’t drive, the only way I could buy groceries would be to take a cab and pay $30 for the trip.  Do that on social security.  Forget going to the doctor, visiting family or friends, or any of the freedom you enjoy by having a car.
      I’m not saying we shouldn’t take away somebody’s license if they’re unfit to drive.  I just think we should apply the same standard to every single driver and make it somehow effective.  And we need to be sympathetic to the fact that for many people, losing their license can be a huge burden and we shouldn’t be do flippant about it because we’re not in that position ourselves…yet.
      One more thing: I would add a driving test for anybody found at fault for an accident.  Hopefully we would catch somebody who was losing their touch before it became too serious.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      I’m not being flippant. A driver’s test isn’t that difficult for most drivers. And for people in the bottom of the “U”, frequent retesting is a waste of resources.

      However, if the accident rate goes up starting at age 65, then start mandatory testing at that age, and re-test every 5 or 10 years thereafter.

      Yes, it’ll suck for some people to lose their driving privileges. Or perhaps have them restricted to daytime only / city streets only. Too bad. Rather they don’t drive, then endanger others, especially children.

      Won’t anyone think of the children?!?

  • avatar

    Virginia, I’ve been told has some of the hardest standards to pass for a driver license. I got mine very easily and had to retake the test at my 20th birthday, same as anyone else in the state who has gotten a license at 16. That is about it as far as Im aware when it comes to testing. My 78 year old grandfather hasn’t taken a test in many years and still claims that anyone can drive in the left most lane on the interstate at the speed limit and should not have any problem with state police, even though there are signs ever two miles or so telling slower drivers to merge right and not impede the flow of traffic. I’m not so much in favor of retesting as much as I am of a full on course and renewal every ten years or so, making sure everyone on the road is on the same page in terms of driving technique (like holding a wheel at 8 and 4, not 10 and 2) and what laws have changed since they last had to take a test on them. I know many people in Virginia do not know that in 2009 the state passed a law making driving 80+ MPH automatically reckless driving, but we have interstates with 70 MPH limits they feel they can still drive 10-15 MPH over on. I’ll admit I’m only 21 and may be a little naive, but I don’t think its too much to ask that everyone in a given state gives up 7 or 8 hours of a weekend once every five or ten years to familiarize themselves with driving and laws pertaining to it over again.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Since I got my first drivers’ license from Virginia — in 1965 — let me recall for you that, at that time, driving over 75 was reckless driving.  So, other than a few top speed runs on the Dulles Airport access road (when no one lived out there and practically no one used the airport), I was always careful to keep my hoonery in Virginia under 75.
      Now, I’m glad to know that I can safely bump it up a notch!
      On the left lane banditry business — here’s the deal.  Most states have laws requiring traffic in the left lane of a four-lane highway to yield the right of way to other traffic, But the law everywhere is that a person exceeding the speed limit (other than an emergency vehicle running emergency lights) does NOT have the right of way. So, in point of fact, if someone is cruising down the Interstate at 70, in a 70 mph zone, he does not have to pull over for some throttle jockey doing 80 who pulls up behind him.  So, you would need to check whether the law is that a left lane driver has to yield no matter what.  The second non-uniformity is that some states prohibit passing on the right on a 4-lane highway; but others do not.  IIRC, when I took the test in Virginia, it did not prohibit passing on the right on a divided 4-lane.

  • avatar

    Why is this such a big deal for people? When I was renewing my license the NY DMV asked for a vision test even though I was in my early 20s at the time.

  • avatar

    My father was retested at age 82 only after he almost t-boned a police car and was referred to a special DMV office. Everyone was nice, but no matter how hard they tried to help, and they did, he could not pass. For flying privately, I have to take a medical exam, at my expense, every two years and a “flight review” with a Certified Flight Instructor, again at my expense. I just dont see anything similar to this happening for a driver’s license.

    • 0 avatar

       For flying privately, I have to take a medical exam, at my expense, every two years and a “flight review” with a Certified Flight Instructor, again at my expense.

      Tell me about it.  Flying for a 121 carrier, 1st class medical (w/ EKG) and check ride every 6 months.  At least the airline paid for it all.  Part 135 air ambulance, checkride every 6 months, 2nd class medical every 12 months.  Ground school every year.  The evaluations and pressure never stop.

  • avatar

    Soylent green factories for anyone over 75.  Just think of it.  Lower taxes since we won’t need to pay all those social security and medicaid expenses.  The roads will be virtually traffic free during the day.  You’ll get your inheritance a lot sooner. You won’t be stuck at the market because some old biddy is holding up the line arguing about an expired coupon for cat food.  Skanky Atlantic City will finally dry up and blow away after it loses 85% of it’s clientele.  All that soylent green can be used as cheap food aid for victims of natural disaster the world over.  Most importantly, I won’t have to look at those old boys who have an onion tied to their belts because it was the style back in the 1930’s.

  • avatar

    I agree with testing. There is no RIGHT to drive and it’s time we started looking at it as a privilege and treat it as such.
    If you lack the capacity to control a 3500lb hunk of metal safely, whether on backroads or busy highways then it’s time to park the ride and take bus. I’ve seen to many instances of elderly drivers having seizures or fits behind the wheel and inadvertently launching their vehicles into storefronts (and people). Discrimination be damned, if you insist of going the minimum speed on a 65mph highway you’re a menace to yourself and everyone else on the road. Take the test and lets confirm you still have the reaction time and faculties necessary to handle yourselves on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      Almost Jake

      Good point…driving is a privilege not a right. I’m currently trying to get my 83 year old mother off the road, but my brothers balk and say its premature. In the past three years (approx 8,000 miles) she has hit her sister’s garage twice, and pulled out into traffic and hit another car. Her vehicle has other unexplained marks, but like a scared child, she refuses to admit any wrong doing.

  • avatar

    I live in FLORIDA, we need this test BADLY.
    I am actually surprised we don’t have to take tests every few years anyway. I’m 40 now and honestly can’t remember the last time I took a driving or vision test. My original test (at 17) was a joke, I never got above 35 mph, made one loop around some cones in a parking lot, had to parallel park (hardest part of the test – no doubt) went onto a 4 lane, typical city street, drove about 3 blocks, made a few turns and came right back. I think I could have passed this test when I was only 12. I was in no way prepared for my first experience on a 60 mph+, multi-lane expressway / highway. Nor was I prepared with any emergency maneuvering skills such as threshold braking, wet weather techniques or controlled slides. License testing in the USA is a joke! A friend of mine went to school in Germany and the system over there is the complete opposite, which explains how they can safely have a road with no speed limit.

    • 0 avatar

      Deaths per billion vehicle kilometers in Germany is 7.2, while the US figure is 8.5
      While driving is statistically less deadly in Germany, I doubt that added rigors, time, and expense, of a German style licensing system would really be worthwhile.

    • 0 avatar

      You might note that deaths per billion vehicle KMs in Austria is slightly higher than in the US, despite Austrians being trained well enough to drive on roads w/o speed limits.

  • avatar

    The AVERAGE age of New Hampshire state legislators is 61. Seems they want to be able to more easily drive to Concord to collect their $200 per year plus mileage reimbursement. :)

  • avatar

    Methinks the question needs to be refined. Should seniors who pass a refresher test be allowed to drive ANYTHING, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME? And if they fail the test, should their driving privileges be forfeited ABSOLUTELY?

    Or is there room for reasonable discussion and accommodation of the problems involved?

    In my CT locale, commuters typically travel at 70+ mph, bumper to bumper, change lanes abruptly and will pass on the right, the dumbasses. An old guy driving a car he can’t see out of shouldn’t be out in these conditions imho.

  • avatar

    For the record, flying isn’t necessarily safer than driving.   It depends -very very much- on what system of measurement you use.
    If we’re looking at deaths per passenger mile traveled, flying is safer.   No surprise there.  One 747 making a non-fatal journey from Maine to California equals the yearly miles traveled of several dozen drivers.   Using this measure – which is what the airlines like to do- flying is about 60 times safer than driving.
    However, if we measured deaths per journey, air travel is almost 3 times more dangerous than car travel.   In a plane, we journey from Maine to Cal., or perhaps from Philly to Chicago to LAX.   In a car we journey from home to the gas station – from the gas station to work.  From work to Mickey-D’s – from McD’s to work, from work to the grocery, from the grocery to the dry cleaners, from the dry cleaners to home.   Cars rack up lots of journeys relative to the miles driven, when compared to planes.
    If we measure a third way – deaths per hour traveled, planes are again safer than cars, but only about 4 times safer, rather than 60 times safer as measured per passenger mile.
    So planes are somewhere between 60 times safer and 4 times more dangerous than driving, depending on the measure used.
    So, what does this matter?
    Well, first, the idea that car travel could be as safe as plane travel if driver training was as rigorous as pilot training is clearly silly.    What makes air travel safer, per passenger mile, is the fact that planes carry several busloads of passengers hundreds or thousands of miles.   It’s safer per passenger mile despite being much more dangerous on a per journey basis.
    2nd, car travel is already much safer than air travel, per journey, so perhaps pilot training isn’t nearly as rigorous as it ought to be.
    3rd, some comments have asked about miles driven for seniors as compared to 16-25 year olds.   It might be interesting to know what the accident rate per trip is, for seniors, as compared to young drivers.   (My guess, in the absence of data, would be accidents per trip is still higher for seniors, because I’m guessing seniors make many few trips per year than younger drivers)

  • avatar

    I am almost 72, and will give up my license tomorrow. Which of you will take me to Publix once a week? I will NOT give up my recently renewed NHRA competition license.
    I quit flying over 20 years ago for the same reasons.

  • avatar

    As a senior myself, I feel totally unqualified to drive, if I have to dial a cell phone, text, and use a navigation system at the same time I drive my manual transmission automobile. 

    Does that mean I shouldn’t drive?

  • avatar
    Almost Jake

    As someone who lives near two retirement homes, I applaud an annual test for older folks. I’d like to see the cutoff dropped to 65 or 70 years of age. Some of my neighbors have such difficulty accomplishing simple tasks that handling a 3,500 pound vehicle seems an unnecessary risks (for everyone). In the four years I’ve lived here, I have personally witnessed them drive into or back into parked vehicles on many occasions and leave the scene as if nothing happened. Though they may not be involved in an accident, their actions cause others to have accidents.

  • avatar

    If feel the law should stay on New Hampshire’s books as is. Our state has been trending older for ages now and it’s not going to get any younger any time soon.

  • avatar

    This is an interesting situation since we have a lot of old people moving to my neck of the woods  from NY, PA and NJ, trying to find a cheaper place to live. Most of the accidents here are caused by teens and other ‘young’ people talking on their cellphones or texting while driving, running red lights and t-boning old people in Towncars and Buicks. Until there is clear evidence showing old people cause accidents it’s going to be difficult to require old people to be tested every year for competency behind the wheel. Just because most old people drive slow and exercise extreme caution while driving, much to the chagrin of the young people racing from stop light to stop light, does not make old people a menace to society. What may be a more equitable solution is to road test everyone, every year.  I would be for that.

  • avatar

    Annual is way too frequent.  Every five years might be alright.
    I like the idea of a graduated license system.  Maybe some elderly drivers who shouldn’t be on the freeway are fine on roads posted 40 mph and under.  Maybe some elderly drivers should only be driving during the day.  Maybe some elderly drivers should only be allowed to drive vehicles under 3000 lb, to reduce the risk to others.  Maybe some non-elderly drivers should be subjected to these restrictions as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Some states allow electric golf cart type vehicles driven without a license on streets with a posted limit of 35mph or lower. I am surprised not to see more of these instead of so many big Buicks driven only to the market and medical appointments.

  • avatar
    lets drive

    I’d have to agree, and see some form of testing as necessary, though with possible modifications. The fact that the young age group is also a threat, doesn’t negate the reality that we also have to address the eldest age group, when it comes to safe driving.

    I’ve had the misfortune of being a victim of both, the former usually to distracted driving, but the latter just making poor and late decisions. I live near a retirement community, and have also been on the receiving end of an 87 year old woman making a left on red into oncoming traffic, which permanently injured me. I’ve also been witness to a lady in her 70s+ illegally merging perpendicular to oncoming traffic, causing a fatal drivers-side T-bone accident (she passed), more recently.

    Letting go is a big deal for seniors, but it is a problem that needs to be addressed, independent of the young age group problem. Of course the lobby will be against it, but I don’t see it as a malicious form of prejudice/discrimination. In this respect, where there is smoke, there is fire, and I don’t believe this type of legislation is being proposed “just because” we need a group to pick on. At the very least, they should acknowledge and compromise on the issue.

  • avatar

    I’m all for it; the AARP and its minions can scream age discrimination all they want to, but there is no doubt that driving abilities degrade over time, I,m 64 and while my vision and reaction times are still good, I’m sure they are not as good as when I was 18.  Having said that, a major cause of accidents is inattention caused by use of cellphones and texting while driving.  I’ve witnessed drivers sail right though a red light while using cell phones and frequently see drivers take corners with one hand on the steering wheel while the other holds a cell phone up to their ear.
    Driving is a privilege, not a right, and it needs to be treated as such.

  • avatar

    Add me to the list of people that feel we need repeat testing.
    For years I have said we should have repeat testing every 5 or 10 years from your first date of licensing.
    I know a family friend that was told to retake his test, he is 75 and dangerous, and he would rent a tiny car for the test instead of taking his tank since he knew he couldn’t pass in his tank.
    Of course, I also think people should have to qualify in a car before being allowed to purchase it.  I am always amazed when I see someone who needs three tries to pull out of a parking space because they have no idea where the rear end of the vehicle is.
    Ok, so I know that won’t reasonably happen but a guy can dream.

  • avatar

    Well, first off, we need to face up to one thing:  If you lose your license but you really need to drive, and you haven’t totaled your car or had it impounded, you’re going to keep driving.

    What we need is some way to make this practice official, with some sort of probationary or low-mileage license.  Unless you work night shift or something, you get a license with a curfew, and if you get a citation outside of your allowed hours, or you cause an accident, Bad Stuff happens.  Big fines, or if you’re a DUI offender, jail time.

    Really, we live in a country where you have to drive.  But if you’re a person whose reflexes have faded, or you’ve otherwise proven yourself dangerous behind the wheel, it needs to be driven into your head that you are engaging in risky behavior, and you need to practice some serious risk management.

  • avatar

    I think testing is a good idea but annually might be a bit overkill and somewhat insulting to the elderly.  Unless you have a stroke or something if you’re completely capable of driving one year it’s not like you’ll suddenly lose that ability by the next year.  I’m not old and I’ve had to talk to people about not driving anymore, but I’m fairly certain that you can do longer intervals than 1 year.  Of course the problem is that there’s really no good data here, but maybe they can look at their crash statistics to come up with something less insulting than something that’s a tiny fraction of how often regular drivers get tested.  I’m know plenty of regular non-elderly people would likely fail if they had to retake the exam just based on the crap I see on the roads.
    I’d say 2-3 year retakes would be more reasonable, and if you’re really concerned about vision make it a simple annual visual exam, something that takes all of 5 minutes to do and costs a lot less than full licensing exams.  Most seniors I know live on pretty limited incomes so constantly having to pay for re-licensure isn’t really very considerate.  Make the visual exams either free or $5 and maybe offer a slightly cheaper rate on the full relicensing.  

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