Ask The Best And Brightest: Annual Driving Tests For The Elderly?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
ask the best and brightest annual driving tests for the elderly

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?

Join the conversation
4 of 70 comments
  • Newfdawg Newfdawg on Mar 11, 2011

    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.

  • Zarf Zarf on Mar 11, 2011

    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.

  • Ctoan Ctoan on Mar 11, 2011

    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.

  • Tekdemon Tekdemon on Mar 23, 2011

    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.