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Are Older Drivers Safer Drivers?

Driving is a form of independence, but it is a privilege; not a right. From a young age, we see this as a major milestone towards becoming an independent, young adult. However, as we age the ability to operate a vehicle safely can become challenging. In the past, many states have placed restrictions on the older generation because they don’t deem them “fit” to drive.

However, does age really matter? Can an eighty year old man be just as quick to react as a newly licensed sixteen year-old? There are varying opinions, but two groups are strongly suggesting that there should not be such harsh restrictions on the aging population as compared with younger drivers.

According to both AARP and AAA, the age of a driver shouldn’t be used as the sole measure of an older person’s fitness to handle a vehicle.  They believe that, now more than ever, the older generation is more active and healthier.

The Governors Highway Safety Administration has said that “Being 75 isn’t what it used to be. Many legislatures have not passed age-based restrictions lately because society has changed its view on what defines “old”.”

Legislation has discussed “age and driving” for quite some time. Many states have placed restrictions on senior citizens when they need to renew their license. For example, many states demand a vision screening before they can renew their license. Most recently, an effort to impose restrictions failed. Over a dozen states considered legislation affecting older drivers, but only a few of these proposed bills passed.

In South Carolina, senior citizens are permitted to continue driving if they have certain vision problems so long as they use a particular corrective device on their eyeglasses. In New Mexico, an incentive for drivers 50 and older can provide lower insurance rates if they take a driver’s education course.

Many believe that older drivers are a risk to themselves and to others. Estimations of over 75 million baby boomers will be considered “at risk drivers” – a population very dedicated to keeping their independence. Studies show that older drivers wear their seatbelt, drive within the speed limit and don’t drink and drive. However, other studies have shown that older drivers are more likely to be involved in a car accident as compared to middle-aged drivers. This is due, in part, to the decline in vision, cognitive ability and potential medical conditions.

The rules and restrictions for older drivers vary by state. In Georgia, the following driving laws apply to older drivers:

Time for driver's license renewal:

  • Under age 59, a driver’s license must be renewed every 5 or 10 years at the driver's choice.
  • Starting at age 59, drivers must renew their driver’s license every 5 years.
  • Veterans' licenses are valid until age 65. 

Conditions of driver’s license renewal:

  • Those under age 64 may be eligible to renew their driver’s license by mail or Internet.
  • Starting at age 64, one must renew their driver’s license in-person and also pass a vision test.

Driving is a privilege and for the aging population it can come as an insult if this privilege is taken away. Whether you are young or old, the ability to drive should not be taken for granted and it should be done so with the upmost safety in mind.

For more information, contact Kaine Law.

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