Driver License retests after 70?

I’ve often heard the pet peeves of many and observed myself some of the dangerous driving habits of our senior citizens. And I’ve heard many people with the same idea “Why don’t seniors have to get retested say every 3 years once they pass the age of say 70?”

I’ve never got a good response to as why no law has been put into effect for this.

My guesses would be:

  1. According to statistics (insurance companies) there really is no problem and seniors do not cause more accidents.
  2. Politicians are afraid they would lose the support of the senior community if they ever tried to enact such a law.
  3. Somehow it’s illegal (age discremenation?)

I know a lot of seniors drive well and more power to them. But I also know there are a lot of seniors that, given a modern day road test, would never be able to pass. A law like this seems in the interest of public safety but never seems to come up? Why?

Its really only been a problem recently , at least in my memory. I can’t remember any similar accident in either the 70’s or 80’s with a senior losing control or causing some sort of horrific accident.

If anything , it was usually someone having a heart attack behind the wheel and then the accident , but thats more of a medical thing ,than anything else ,as it could happen to anyone.

But pretty much it comes down to the grey block of voters , till the boomers go off into obscurity as a voting group, your not going to see any kind of legislation at all.


I’d guess theory number 2.

You know, why stop with just making seniors retest. How about we force everyone to retake a behind-the-wheel test every three years? I think it would discourage people from falling into bad habits, like aggressive drving.

Of course, it would be an administrative nightmare and any legislation concerning such retests wouldn’t have a snowballs chance in Hades. Still, amusing to think about.

You know, I had a brilliant idea once on this subject.

Mandatory retesting for everyone is a major hassle… it sucks, and largely inconveniences folks who Are capable of driving at highway speeds with resonable maneuverability.

On the other hand, how do you deal with those seniors who are hazards behind the wheel, without causing them to rise up in anger (as depicted in South Park) or invoking the ACLU on an age discrimination rant?


Mandatory periodic reflex testing for licensed drivers. Could be done in five minutes on a driving simulator. Minimal hassle to the good drivers. Those flunking the reflex test get to take a road test. And if you’re only capable of slow, arcing maneuvers at 15mph on the interstate with your left blinker on for five miles… well, you’re unsafe to be driving.

Politicians are afraid to upset a large and growing bloc of voters. It’s just that simple.

I think elders should be tested regularly after age 70. I’d bet it could be demonstrated that the reaction response time of the average person after the age of 70 is diminished on a scale that would look rather like the reactions of a younger person under the influence of alcohol; the older the person the greater diminution of reaction response.

We have no trouble sanctioning, or even revoking the priveleges of a person who uses alcohol (or some other drug) and slows down his reaction time to a hazardous level, but our cowardly politicians refuse to apply the same standard of competency to the elferly because they wouldn’t like it.

Driving is not a right, even though it is generally perceived as one. It is a privelege granted by each state and subject to certain qualifications. The unqualified should be prevented from driving for their own safety and that of everyone else on the road. Legislators should get some backbone.

That said, I dread their actually doing it and lifting my driving priveleges. I’m not a really old geezer yet (approaching 62), but I’m getting there rapidly.

Before this even becomes a relevant debate, you need to provide some citations that elderly people (70 plus) are more of a danger on the roads than other age groups.

According to a pdf chart available on this site:

I suggest that men should probably not be allowed to drive at all before the age of 35, in fact they are the safest between the ages of 65 and 69. After 70, their highway mayhem still does not begin to approach the rates of male drivers 21-24. So what were you saying again?

How about mandatory testing for everyone who gets into a serious car accident, whether they are at fault or not?

I’ve often wondered about how many accidents are caused by elderly drivers who are not actually involved in the accidents.

I’ve heard a few anecdotes (one from a guy who was a passenger in a car with an elderly driver who after making some erratic move, heard the crash happen behind her involving a driver who had been trying to avoid a collision with her and said "Did I do that?’, then drove on her merry way.) The elderly driver does something like suddenly slow down in the fast lane for no apparent reason, makes a sudden right turn into a driveway or parking lot from the left lane, or generally is driving in such a manner that it is apparent to others on the road that this person is oblivious to their surroundings. Another driver or two is forced to make a sudden move to avoid an accident with the elderly driver, and his car is struck by another vehicle.

I’ve asked the question on the SDMB a couple of different times, but have never gotten an answer. I wonder if anyone has compiled any statistics of police reports in which one or more of the drivers involved, and/or witnesses stated that the accident happened because they had to swerve/brake/something suddenly to avoid a collision with an elderly driver who was operating their vehicle in an unsafe manner.

Though I don’t know the specifics, AFAIK, such regular retests for elderly people are mandatory in Netherlands. Maybe a dutch poster could chime in?

Check your chart again. According to it older drivers make up 10% of licensed drivers. However, they are accoutable for 13% of all traffic fatalities, 12% of vehicle occupant fatalities, and 17% of all pedestrian fatalities.

Did you download the PDF? Male drivers between 21 and 24 were involved in twice the fatal accidents than the drivers 70plus. What you quoted has nothing whatsever to do with the price of tea in Ceylon.

From this site:

Drivers over 70 constitute 9.9 percent of all drivers.

Drivers between 20 and 24 constitute 8.4 percent of all drivers.

That’s just in case someone wants to say there are more drivers between 20 and 24 to account for their elevated rate of fatal accidents. :slight_smile:

The mileage should be taken into account. If group A drives ten times more than group B and has only three times more accident, then group A is less dangerous despite being involved in more accidents.

And I suspect people aged 70+ drive much less than people aged 20-40.

CandidGamera, I have thought about the mandatory simulated reflex testing idea as well. I think it needs one final tweak:

Test everyone’s reflexes at least every three years. (Or five years, depending on how often you must renew.)

If you get any kind of traffic ticket or moving violation it means you must re-take the drive test on your next renewal. Preferably, every time you get a traffic ticket or moving violation you are also issued a new license that expires next year (that is, on your next birthday, so one year or less from today).

In other words, if you drive badly, we’re gonna watch you. If you drive well and don’t get tickets you can re-up every five years like a good citizen.

Exactly. Elderly drivers are every bit as dangerous in terms of accidents per mile as young drivers (under 25 or so) are. The only reason we tend to think of younger drivers as more dangerous is that they do more driving.

According to the third chart on this site:

PER MILES DRIVEN, the 70-74 age group is still involved in fewer fatal/injury accidents than the 16-29 age group. Age 75-79, is still equal to the 20-24 group. It’s only after age 80 that the fatality/inury rate exceeds that of other age groups, although still not exceeding the 16-19 rates by much.

There is also this notation:
"* Driving skill, in terms of collision avoidance, declines at advanced age. However, the upswing at age 80 exaggerates the decline for two reasons. First, drivers of advanced age are more vulnerable to injury and fatality, which would tend to increase their incidence of reported collisions. Second, older persons driving fewer miles are more likely to be driving in city and other non freeway traffic, where the risk of collisions per mile is higher. "

I guess my point, overall, is that there is a reason young people pay much higher auto insurance rates, and since the insurance companies have the most vested interest in having a handle on all of these statistics, older people, in general, are not worse drivers than younger people. Are there some elderly people who shouldn’t drive anymore? OF COURSE! It would be absurd to contend otherwise. But, apparently, there are plenty of young people who shouldn’t drive either, albeit for different reasons.

Yeah, but while we can test reliably for impaired reflexes, we haven’t yet devised a test to detect overconfident young dumbasses with a “need for speed”. :wink:

At least where I live (New Hampshire), there is another reason I’d offer that hasn’t been mentioned yet.

If older folks are no longer driving due to retesting, we need to get them around somehow. Public transportation is non-existent in most semi-rural or rural areas around here. There is a lack of land-use planning as well as the historical loss of downtowns and increase of big boxes, and now we’ve got entire regions where you need a car to live. We’d end up with people living in the house they’ve lived in all their lives suddenly unable to buy groceries on their own. Government doesn’t want to pay for elder transportation, and middle-aged folks don’t want to be responsible for their parents.

I’m afraid I don’t have a cite for it, but the last time the testing issue was debated here, this was a big argument. (I’m not saying it’s a legitimate argument, of course…)

Exactly. I don’t know what the official rationales are either, but certainly one of the biggest sources of resistance to mandatory testing among elderly drivers is fear of losing their independence if they can’t drive a car.

This should come as no surprise. We can’t set up a social environment that essentially requires almost everybody to have independent access to a car in order to take advantage of most of the basic necessities and conveniences of life, and then expect people to be willing to relinquish that access when their deteriorating skills make them a safety hazard.

Driving may indeed be a privilege rather than a right, but in this country we often act as though it were an innate permanent function of the autonomic nervous system, like breathing or something. Who can blame the elderly for clinging to their licensed-driver status when our society offers them so few alternatives for being able to get anywhere?

And yet, some people have no problem denying that same status to teenagers, as if they don’t need a way to get anywhere. Funny how the ability to drive becomes a vital necessity when the (potentially dangerous) drivers in question are allowed to vote, eh?