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Should senior drivers be required extra testing to keep licenses?

Staff Report • Apr 2, 2012 at 8:44 AM

For the most part, senior drivers nationwide are involved in fewer accidents than teenagers. Many experts, however, say those statistics don’t tell the whole story.

According to the industry website insurance.com, drivers between the ages of 25 and 64 have a fairly constant rate of accidents when measured by crashes per miles driven.

This rate begins to rise at age 70, however, and goes up rapidly at age 80.

Statistics show drivers 85 and older are 11 times more likely to be killed in a crash than any other age group.

Officials say slower reaction times and poor eyesight contributed to many of these fatalities.

In Tennessee, all drivers are required to renew their licenses every five years.

Even so, senior drivers do not have to pass vision or driving tests to renew their driver’s licenses.

At the same time, drivers 18 and younger are under a graduated license system that restricts their driving privileges.

This is justified since motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States.

 Nationally, graduated licensing programs have helped to reduce the accident rates for teenagers.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the overall number of 16-year-old drivers involved in fatal crashes fell from 1,084 in 1993 to 938 in 2003.

A bill was introduced in the state General Assembly in 2006 that would require senior drivers to have their reaction times and vision checked when renewing their licenses in Tennessee.

The legislation failed in the House Transportation Committee, where several lawmakers argued it was unfair to single out elderly drivers.

Nonetheless, there are public safety officials who say its perfectly reasonable to test reaction time and vision of senior drivers.

A driver’s vision can decrease with age, and an 80-year-old needs three times more light to see as well as a driver 60 years younger.

Older drivers often suffer from diminished hand-eye coordination, resulting in slower reaction times to hit the brakes or steer to avoid an accident.

We want to know what you think:

Should Tennessee require elderly drivers to demonstrate they still have the skills and reflexes it takes to safely share the highway with other motorists?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com.

Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification.

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