Senior drivers are now the fastest growing demographic of licensed drivers. In fact, it is estimated that at least 25 percent of all drivers will be 65 or older by 2025.1 While seniors are often considered safety risks on the road, new research shows they are actually safer drivers than their teen counterparts. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers between 70 and 79 had the same crash rates as drivers in their 30s, drivers between ages 80 and 84 had crash rates similar to drivers aged 25 to 59, and drivers older than 85 had crash rates comparable to drivers aged 20 to 24.
Despite their reduced accident rates, older drivers have statistically higher injury and death rates. However, these increased rates were due more to their “diminished ability to survive a crash” rather than an increased number of crashes. In fact, drivers aged 85 and older have fewer crash-related death rates than any other demographic.2
Teen Driving Restrictions
In California, teen drivers are more than four times more likely to be in a car accident than any other age group, and they also receive more citations than any other age group. To help reduce teen driver accident and injuries, some states have started placing restrictions on teen drivers until they gain the experience they need to be safer drivers.
Teens in California are able to receive a driver’s license after completing a three-step “graduated license” process that begins when the new driver turns 15-and-a-half years old. First, the new driver gets a permit. After 50 hours of supervised driving practice, the new driver can take a test for a provisional license. With the provisional license, the teen driver will be able to drive with established restrictions. If the driver completes 12 months of provisional driving without receiving a violation, he/she will “graduate” to a license with full privileges.
Should Older Drivers Have Restrictions?
Today, about one in six drivers is older than 65, and as people live longer and heathier lives, the number of older drivers on the road will continue to grow. An important question being considered in California is the idea of age or license restrictions for older drivers.
In California, the DMV may learn about a driver who possibly is unable to drive safely from family members, physicians, and law enforcement officials, as well as from the driver themselves or their passengers. The DMV can investigate the driving abilities of any person who may be unable to drive safely for any reason. Senior drivers whose ability to be safe on the road is questionable may be required by the DMV to retake vision, written, and/or road tests for each license renewal.
Currently, at least 33 states have some type of restriction or requirements for senior driver’s license renewals. For most states, the provisions for mature drivers begin between ages 60 to 70 and can include:
- Vision tests
- Written tests
- Road test
- Driver’s license renewals completed in person, and
- Shorter renewal cycles
In some states, senior drivers complete a Local Drive Test (road test) on their local community streets to show that while they may be unable to handle fast-paced traffic on a freeway, they are completely safe while driving local roads. In cases like this, the DMV would provide restricted licenses that limit driving to certain times of day, roadway types, and geographic areas for drivers who need to drive to “important, familiar places” should they not qualify for a standard license.
In California, drivers aged 70 and above must renew their driver’s license every five years and are unable to renew by mail.3
Older Drivers Often Face Other Issues
Older drivers are more likely to have medical conditions than any other group, and are more likely to be on medications that could affect their driving abilities. Many older drivers are unaware that they can be arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) if their medications have any effect on their ability to drive.
Do You Think California Should Set Age Restrictions on Drivers?
We at Wallin & Klarich would like to hear from you about driver’s license restrictions. Do you believe that California should force drivers past a certain age to take Local Drive Tests to re-qualify for a driver’s license? At what age do you believe drivers should be tested for safe and controlled driving? Please share your comments about this important issue below.