You took driving lessons in high school, but that was decades ago. Does this mean you’ll have to do it again when you’re 60?
By Deborah Lambeth
In most states, when you are 16 years old, you can get behind the wheel of a car and begin training to be a driver. Your instructor goes through the basics of keeping you focused on the road, using turn signals, monitoring your speed, showing you different ways to park, turn around, and what to do in case of an accident. Usually you take a class that encompasses the different laws for your state, how to apply for a license, etc. Your license indicates that you have been trained to the “ways of the road” and are ready to go. You’ve learned how to use your signals, the importance of driving within the speed limit, and the value of keeping your eyes on the road (in front of you and behind you).
It’s funny how driving accountability changes when a person starts getting older. People tend to assume since someone has been driving for many years are still okay to drive. This may not be the case. Reaction time can be slower in older adults, it may be difficult for them to abide by the speed limit (going too fast or going too slow), distance perception can be skewed, and they may be limited in their ability to maneuver the car.
Other than checking their eyes and knowledge of signs, there usually isn’t a driving test given to adults. Some states are now thinking that it might be useful to conduct road tests when adults reach a certain age or shorten the time between license renewals. There are some states that have different licensing requirements for older drivers. Some states require people over 60 years old to appear in person to renew their license. Other states are taking a proactive stance and have shortened the period of time between renewals. Illinois, for example, requires drivers aged 81-86 years to renew every two years and anyone above 87 has to renew every year. Vision testing is also done at the time of renewal.
According to the National Safety Commission, statistics are showing that 15-24 year old people continue to be the drivers where most fatalities occur. Between 1997-2006, there were more drivers on the road over the age of 70 but the fatality rate was on 21% compared with the other groups of adult drivers. Some of the reasons for the low percentage of fatalities may be that older adults tend to drive newer cars, they aren’t on the road for an extended period of time, and the health of older adults has become better.
Given the statistics, it’s pretty safe to say that older drivers continue to be better drivers. However, with the adjustments that are being made on the requirements for senior citizens to renew their licenses, hopefully the roads will be safer.