The topic of elderly drivers is not always easy to broach. Losing the ability and right to drive is sometimes devastating to a senior citizen and can cause a multitude of emotional and behavioral issues. Sadly, it is eventually necessary for all drivers. There were over 40 million American drivers over the age of 65 in 2013. That number was predicted to grow exponentially in decades to come as the elderly population grows. Many elderly drivers curb their driving on their own due to hearing or vision problems but others refuse to stop driving and often take lives in the process.
With the expected boom of elderly drivers over the coming decades, California legislators have been deciding how to address the issue. Mandatory vision examinations and driving tests are proposed but many feel they are age discriminatory and therefore have no legal foundation to implement. People lose their physical capabilities as they age, however each person is different and some may not experience as many issues as others. Vision and hearing problems naturally occur as we age but also loss of reaction time and cognitive skills. The mandatory tests for elderly drivers allow a means to determine unsafe drivers from those who remain able to drive safely.
There are some palpable signs of lessened driving skills that family and loved ones of elderly drivers can be on the lookout for. Driving unnecessarily slow and a fear of driving any faster can point to a diminishing of driving skills. Especially if this has never been an issue in the past. A reluctance to drive on interstates and freeways can also be a sign. Slow reaction times, impaired hearing and vision are also sure signs. Often, elderly drivers will display these signs as a way of showing they are safer drivers in reaction to what they are experiencing. However, in reality they increase the risk of accidents on the roadway. Completely without meaning to, an elderly driver can cause great injury and even death for themselves and other drivers on the road.
California requires drivers over 70 to renew their license in person. No internet or mail renewals are possible for elderly drivers passed 70. If a senior driver fails a DMV vision test, they may be required to take a supplemental driving test to renew their license. The state cannot, however, suspend, restrict or revoke anyone’s license just because they are over 65 or 70. Senior drivers in California are required to successfully complete driving tests more frequently than drivers in other age groups. These additional tests, called P&M hearing or reexaminations, entail a written medical history from a doctor, driving, vision and written tests, and an in-person hearing to present evidence of safe driving.
Driving into the golden years is not impossible for California drivers, but it does entail a bit more to prove competency. While this can be a hindrance as well as a huge annoyance to the senior population, it is a necessary evil to keep the public at large as well as out senior drivers safe.