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article imageOp-Ed: Do seniors need mandatory road tests?

By Liz Seegert     Sep 17, 2012 in Lifestyle
When do you become "too old" to drive? Is this a decision best left up to individuals, or are mandatory road tests necessary to keep everyone safe?
Recent minor surgery forced me off the road for several weeks. I did not like the feeling of being trapped and dependent on others. It's hard to accept that the time will come when this becomes a permanent situation. I wonder how many of us will admit to ourselves that our driving skills have deteriorated and we'd better hang up the car keys.
The Associated Press examined requirements for re-tests and license renewals for seniors in several of the 30 states that mandate action. Officials there have the power to take your license away or restrict it if they think no longer drive safely. It might sound harsh, however, this is exactly what may be needed, even if it means that seniors must become more dependent on others.
The idea that after a certain age drivers need to be retested and if necessary, given restricted licenses is a good one. Although many seniors limit themselves voluntarily, many others do not. Just drive around a senior-dense city like Ft. Lauderdale or Tucson. I've seen the results first hand, and it's highly unnerving.
We require teens to obtain learners permits, and be verified by state officials that they are competent to operate a 2,000 pound machine. Many states have instituted graduated licensing, affording teens an opportunity to gain more experience without too many additional distractions. It seems logical that a similar, standardized program should be instituted for seniors.
In many parts of the country, the inability to drive severely hampers independence. So the idea is to allow seniors hang on to those car keys for a while longer, as long as they can do so safely. Mandatory road tests and restrictions are a viable solution to a problem that is only going to worsen as more baby boomers reach the age where safe driving becomes an issue.
Seniors may think they're fine, but by age 65 older drivers are involved in more crashes, and by age 75 there's a real risk for vision loss, hearing impairments, and limits on mobility. That puts the driver, and every other driver on the road, at greater risk.
AAA has many free resources available on their website that let seniors take self-assessments, provide information on medications' effects on driving, and sign up for refresher courses. AARP also provides similar information on their site, noting that some insurers even offer discounts for completing an AARP driving course.
Let's remember that driving is a privilege, not a right. If you cannot do so without compromising your own well being or that of others, then you should not be on the road. That's true at every age.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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