States Backtrack on Senior Driving Laws as Population Ages

There are many challenges drivers face as they age. Vision deteriorates and reflexes dull. That’s why many states – including Maine – have provisions in place requiring senior drivers to undergo additional testing and in-person renewals.

The Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles is one of the more stringent. Drivers are first required to undergo a vision test at age 40 in order to renew their license. Drivers older than 65 have to renew their state-issued licenses every four years, as opposed to every six years, as younger drivers do. Drivers 62 and older are required to undergo a vision test every second renewal. The bureau also accepts requests from anyone with personal knowledge of a driver who may pose a safety concern to others. Road tests may be required if the bureau has reason to believe the driver may be unfit. Bureau personnel have the authority to restrict the driver’s licenses of elder drivers to prevent them from driving when it’s dark or only allow driving within a certain area.

As the population ages (the U.S. Census opines the percentage of the over-65 population will more than double by 2050), states are not rushing to impose additional regulations. In fact, some state legislatures have actually been actively rejecting these measures, according to a recent report published by the Portland Press-Herald. In fact, while 60 million older adults are expected to be on the nation’s roadways by 2030, some legislators are taking the position that licenses should not be restricted solely on the basis of age.

There are reportedly a couple of different reasons. One is that while it’s true that older drivers tend to suffer more serious injuries in car accidents, they are also generally deemed safe drivers. Additionally, there are a growing number of programs available today to help them improve their driving skills. Also, a number of studies reveal these kinds of restrictions to be somewhat ineffective at curbing traffic deaths among seniors or in cases involving senior drivers.

Finally, there is a broadening number of senior advocacy groups that have substantial political clout, including the AARP. They too espouse the position that the fitness of an older person to safely operate a vehicle should not be predicated solely on his or her age. A spokeswoman for AARP explains that to do this is to “stereotype” older drivers.

The executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association noted basically that 75 isn’t what it used to be. Specifically, people are living longer, more active lives than in generations past. Consider that Donald Trump is the oldest president ever to be elected at age 70.

These evolving attitudes have prompted some states to make it easier for older people to obtain their drivers’ licenses. For example, in New Mexico, the state lowered the age of eligibility to qualify for lower auto insurance rates for taking a driver’s education course to 50. Meanwhile, other states have been rejecting bills that would make it more difficult for older people to keep their license. For example, Tennessee legislators axed a bill that would have mandated that drivers over the age of 75 have their vision tested. And in Vermont, legislators tossed a bill that would have required over-65 drivers to pass a vision test.

While it’s true that aging today is different from aging years ago, the fact is the number of at-risk drivers is going to increase as 75 million baby boomers age – and they’re going to want to continue driving. In the 1970s, about half of Americans older than 65 had a driver’s license. Today, about 85 percent do.

Yes, they do have generally good driving records, but research shows they are at higher risk of car accidents than those in middle age, due to health reasons. Research by the Insurance Institute has shown they are more likely to be involved in certain kinds of crashes, including those caused by failures to yield and those at intersections.

If you are the victim of a Portland car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Curb elderly drivers? Not so fast, Dec. 25, 2016, By Jenni Bergal,, Portland Press Herald

More Blog Entries:

Maine I-295 Traffic Up 12 Percent, Increases Congestion, Crash Risk, Dec. 25, 2016, Portland Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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