State Laws on Older Drivers

(Page 2 of 2 of When Should Elders Stop Driving? )

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State laws specify more strict standards for older drivers and monitor older drivers more closely than younger motorists. Some of the steps states have taken to regulate how and when older drivers can renew their licenses include:

  • issuing licenses with shorter renewal intervals for drivers older than a specified age, typically 65 or 70
  • requiring older drivers to renew their licenses in person rather than electronically or by mail, and
  • administering tests -- such as vision, written, or road tests -- that are not routinely required of younger drivers.

If an older driver's continued fitness to drive is in doubt because of how he or she appeared or performed while renewing a license, a history of crashes or violations, or reports by doctors, police, or other concerned observers, state licensing agencies may require the driver to undergo physical or mental examinations or retake the standard licensing tests.

For a summary of state laws regulating how and when older drivers can renew their licenses, visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's website (click "Laws & Regs," and then "Licensing renewal provisions for older drivers").

Discussing the Issue With an Older Driver

If you are concerned that an older driver may be becoming dangerous on the road, sensitivity is key in broaching the subject. For many people, an end to driving signals the beginning of tangible limitations and loss of independence. It can also begin a struggle to find new ways to accomplish errands and necessities, such as post office runs and grocery shopping. And it may mean foregoing daily pleasures, such as attending a weekly painting class or card game.

Some experts suggest that you spend a week or two without driving a car before you raise the issue with the older person. For many, this is a crash course in sensitivity. You can also try to frame the issue openly, then truly listen to the older person's expressed thoughts and feelings. For example, you might say: "Mom, I imagine that if you're not allowed to drive anymore, you will miss your Monday night visits to Aunt Lil's house." You may be surprised to find out that your mother's bigger concern is that she won't be able to get to the grocery store for food -- and you can help best by looking into community resources for home meal delivery.

Alternatives to Driving

Though transportation alternatives differ in type, cost, and availability depending on locale, there are a number of options for seniors who need to limit or stop driving.

Taxis and driver services. In many locales, senior citizens qualify for discounts or vouchers for taxi and driver services that can pick them up on call or at prearranged times.

Public transportation. Buses, trains, or trams are available in most areas. An older person who is unfamiliar with the routes used and procedures required for local public transportation can ask a friend who is a seasoned passenger on the bus or train to ride along on the first trip or two.

Shuttles. As a public accommodation, places such as churches, senior centers, retirement communities, shopping centers, health clubs, and grocery stores often offer shuttle services that will pick up passengers at designated stops or transport them home.

Senior services. The U.S. Administration on Aging's Eldercare Locator (www.eldercare.gov) can provide a list of local transportation possibilities for seniors.

Friends, neighbors, and family members. People who drive are often happy to have companionship while they do errands such as stopping at the post office. And many are happy to do the good deed of picking up a quart of milk at the grocery store for an older person who can't get there. It's often just a matter of making the senior's needs known.

To Learn More

Written with sensitivity and clarity, Nolo's Long-Term Care, by Joseph Matthews (Nolo) addresses making the best long-term care arrangements for elders.

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