A recent article from the Associated Press regarding senior drivers has been making the rounds both online and in local newspapers. It discusses how various states handle senior drivers differently, even starting with at what age a person is considered an "older" or "senior" driver. Common precautions taken with giving senior drivers permission to continue driving include eye exams and shorter expiration dates on drivers' licenses. The article points out that while younger drivers in their teens and twenties cause more car crashes than senior drivers, that may be because older drivers do not drive as much, by choice, and also may avoid driving in the dark and if it is raining or snowing.
State officials may have a hard time setting driving limits for seniors because someone's driving ability may not be commensurate with their age. A 65-year-old driver that has no major medical issues will be less likely to cause an accident than someone of the same age that suffers from memory loss or vision issues, or who is on multiple medications that may impair judgment or response time.
Many states have tried though. In Virginia, drivers over 80 can still keep their licenses for eight years like everyone else in the state, but they must renew their license in person and take an eye exam. Older Florida drivers have to renew every six years instead of eight and have an eye exam when they turn 80. California requires their drivers to submit to a vision test and a written test when they want to renew their licenses over the age of 70.
Some of these state laws have changed in response to accidents or personal injury lawsuits. In Massachusetts, the law changed in 2010 to require anyone over 75 to renew their license in person and have an eye exam. The reason? In 2009, an 88-year-old ran over a 4-year-old and killed the child. However, in New Hampshire, drivers are no longer subjected to mandatory road tests over the age of 75 because an 86-year-old driver said it was a form of discrimination in 2011.
While scientists are trying to create the perfect screening test to determine how an older person will perform on the roadways, others say two key factors would help keep older drivers and everyone around them safer on the roads. First, people over a certain age should be required to renew their drivers' licenses in person. This process would allow for the license bureau employees to visually assess those wishing to renew their licenses. Second, anyone wishing to report that a certain driver may not be safe to be on the road should remain anonymous. This would include doctors, to keep them from being sued by angry patients - and family members who do not want to upset their loved ones.
For Kentucky drivers, there is currently no difference in the license renewal process, no matter what age. Licenses are not renewed any more frequently and there are no additional tests required unless someone reports a driver as needing further testing before they can renew their license. If that is the case, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has a medical review board that will determine whether or not the individual can safely operate a car on the road. Otherwise, drivers of any age are equally welcome to share the road as long as they have a valid license. We hope that all Kentucky drivers, young and old and in between, enjoy driving safely and considerately.