Should Driving Tests Be Mandatory on those over 70?

This year my husband turns 68 and has agreed to take a driver competency test on the suggestion of our doctor.  So I called around to driving schools and stopped in at the DMV and no one knew where he could take such a test.  Do you think that is strange?

We have a neighbor who got her license renewed when she was 93 without a written or behind the wheel test.  Her license was renewed for 6 more years.

We don’t want to discriminate against the aging.  Some 70 year olds are healthier and more alert that some 60 year olds …and for that matter — 20 year olds.

Shouldn’t people who have been diagnosed with dementia, have suffered a brain injury due to stroke or trauma, be required to get periodic checks on their ability to drive safely?

A recent survey conducted by the Institute of Advanced Motorists in conjunction with the University of Warwick showed that older drivers are in support of testing.

Dr Hawley said: “Almost 60% of those questioned said drivers should retake the driving test every five years after age 70, 85% said drivers should pass an eyesight test every five years once they have reached 70, and more than half said that drivers aged around 70 should be required to have a medical examination.”

I finally found a place in Gainesville, Florida that is part of Shands Medical that conducts a test.  The test includes cognition and behind the wheel driving in the car provided by the testing program.  The catch is, it costs $400 and is not covered by insurance.

How many 80 year olds on retirement budgets are going to pay that much to get tested.  Instead they start driving just to familiar places like the grocery store or the doctor.  They stop driving at night and avoid driving when it is raining or snowing.

In the next 20 years we will see the number of drivers over the age of 70 double.  According to the report there are one million license-holders over the age of 80.  It is important to keep them mobile and independent as long as possible.  Where do we draw the line?

The report showed that older people think that General Practice Doctors should notify patients when their condition may hinder their driving and order a competency test or a voluntary end to driving.  That would be a good step.

There is a demand for the testing even with the $400 fee and no insurance coverage, and no legal requirement.  The wait for the testing at Shands in Gainesville, FL is over two months.

“Voluntary self-assessment and better education via GPs are important techniques for helping drivers understand how long they can continue to drive safely for. And for those needing a confidence boost or a little extra reassurance on today’s busy roads, the IAM’s Mature Driver Assessment could be something to think about,” said Sarah Sillars, Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) Chief Executive officer.

For driving tips for aging drivers, click here.

By Susan Straley