Social Question

erichw1504's avatar

Should people who have reached a certain age be required to retake their drivers test?

Asked by erichw1504 (26433points) November 9th, 2009

This question came to mind when I witnessed a driver pull in front of another car nearly hitting them in a parking lot. When I got a good look at the driver he had to be at least 70 and looked like he was going to keel over any second.

How old is too old to drive? Should we mandate everyone to retake their drivers test every 20 years or so? Or should people who have reached a certain age just retake it?

What are your experiences with old men or women drivers?

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35 Answers

trumi's avatar

The drivers test is basic maneuverability, which old people ROCK at. What they need to be tested on is reaction time and awareness.

Dr_C's avatar

I don’t think you should necessarily re-take a drivers test (the knowledge is basically still there). What i think might be a feasible alternative is a proficiency or fitness evaluation. If your reflexes are sub-par, attention span has diminished, and are physically unable to make quick decisions or enact them… paired with vision or hearing issues.. you should not have a license.

This kind of evaluation can be mandatory ever 5 years as of someone’s 50’s or something.

erichw1504's avatar

@trumi & @Dr_C You both have a very good point, it’s not the basic knowledge that may be lacking, but most likely the actual driving skills.

RocketSquid's avatar

Yes. Every near accident I’ve been in, every time someone’s nearly merged into me, every time I’ve been late because I’ve been walled in by people, every time I’ve had to swerve out of the way of someone going the wrong way on a one way street, it is always by elderly drivers. I’ve had only one near run in with a teenager, but every other time has been someone 65 or over.

Judi's avatar

My MIL was driving a brand new Maserati with a broken right foot and on Tylenol 4. It scared the crap out of me!!!
After a few falls and not remembering stuff, she has finally decided herself that she won’t drive anymore. THANK GOODNESS!!! (Although the Maserati now just sits.)

ccrow's avatar

I’m assuming you are talking about an actual driving test as opposed to a written test. I don’t think you could put an age requirement in place w/out it being considered discriminatory. (Besides that, there are plenty of younger drivers whose driving, frankly, sucks.) I think if older drivers are going to be tested, the only fair way to do it would be to require every driver to retake it periodically.

erichw1504's avatar

@ccrow Yes, the actual driving part of the test. Thanks for pointing that out.

MagsRags's avatar

It must be a state by state thing – my dad is 95yo and still driving during daylight hours. He has to do a road test every I think 2 years – he gets very stressed about it beforehand, but has done fine so far. He lives in Illinois.

And I do think it’s a good idea.

erichw1504's avatar

@MagsRags Thanks for your input, I didn’t know some states had already implemented something for this.

Les's avatar

My grandfather (Illinois resident) had to retake a driving test (actually sitting in a car, driving) every two years or so. He always passed with flying colors. The best part is, he drove with both feet. Right foot on the gas, left foot on the brake. He is the best parallel park-er I know.

janbb's avatar

Yes, I think a reaction time evaluation and physical exam after a certain age would be good. We had to take the car away from my Mom at 85 after she had speeding tickets and an accident and she was really pissed at us.

zephyr826's avatar

I think that we should all be required to take some sort of test every 10 years anyway. Younger drivers don’t have the experience, Middle-aged drivers tend to be over-confident, and older drivers don’t have the reaction time. We could all use a little refresher from time to time.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I think it’d be a very good idea. The actual driving test would show how well an elderly person handles a car, how they drive in traffic situations & how quick their reflexes are.

MrItty's avatar

Everyone should, regardless of age. Every 5–10 years at least.

side note: you should also be requred to pass the exam more times than you previously failed it. I had a g/f in high school who failed four times. Then she managed to pass once. She has a license. She should not.

virtualist's avatar

Just so we keep this in perspective: ( and note, please I DO believe that drivers above a certain age SHOULD be required to pass appropriate cognitive, visual, and reflexive testing on a regular basis )

National Teen Driving Statistics

* Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers.
* 16 year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age.
* 16-year-olds are three times more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than the average of all drivers.
* 3,490 drivers age 15–20 died in car crashes in 2006, up slightly from 2005.
* Drivers age 15–20 accounted for 12.9 percent of all the drivers involved in fatal crashes and 16 percent of all the drivers involved in police-reported crashes in 2006.
* The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates the economic impact of auto accidents involving 15–20 year old drivers is over $40 billion.
* A recent report by AAA estimates the cost of crashes involving 15–17 year olds to be $34 billion.
* Graduated drivers license programs appear to be making a difference. Fatal crashes involving 15— to 20-year olds in 2005 were down 6.5 percent from 7,979 in 1995, to the lowest level in ten years.
* Fewer 16-year-olds are driving. In 2006 only 30 percent of 16-year-olds had their driver’s licenses compared to 40% in 1998 according to the Federal Highway Administration.
* According to a 2005 survey of 1,000 people ages 15 and 17, conducted by the Allstate Foundation
o More than half (56 percent) of young drivers use cell phones while driving,
o 69 percent said that they speed to keep up with traffic
o 64 percent said they speed to go through a yellow light.
o 47 percent said that passengers sometimes distract them.
o Nearly half said they believed that most crashes involving teens result from drunk driving.
* 31 percent of teen drivers killed in 2006 had been drinking, according to NHTSA. 25 percent had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.
* Statistics show that 16 and 17-year-old driver death rates increase with each additional passenger (IIHS).

jca's avatar

i think if an old person can barely walk, then they should/could/would have problems driving. i once got run off the road (literally) by an old lady. We were turning onto a parkway, there were two lanes for turning left and one lane for turning right. I was in the middle lane (turning left) and she was in left lane. She made the left and drifted over to the right, where i was. I had to go up onto the grass to avoid her. I sped up to her at the light and started yelling at her “do you know you just ran me off the road?” she looked frazzled and clueless. I said to her “they should give driving tests for people over 70 like you!”

my grandfather got where he was losing it, and he used to drive up to intersections and look around and say “where am I?” that was scary. My mom has a neighbor who lost one eye (although you can’t tell by looking at her) and she is old and slow and she drives, which is very scary because if she were in an accident and they found out she has one eye she would probably be sued big time.

It would be nice if people that are older just voluntarily give it up but i know they value their independence.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I agree with @MrItty but think it should be a yearly or every two years deal like your registration. Where I work, I see people daily who can barely move their heads, have shaking limbs and they get behind heavy machinery and are out on the road; I often question how attentive they’re able to be.

jca's avatar

Note: i think if like @MrItty and @hungryhungryhortence said everyone had to retake their drivers’ exams all over again every two years, there would have to be way way more employees of the Motor Vehicle Dept to handle the testing and administration of testing (can you tell i work for the government) and probably our taxes would have to go up to handle the overflow. I think for people between say 20 and 60, there is probably not too much of a change in their ability to drive and it would not be necessary to test all those people every two years. I think we improve after the teen years (improve from experience, are more cautious, and have not yet had the neurological declines of old age). For people that speed and drive recklessly (which is not that they are unable to drive) there are police and traffic enforcement.

Dr_C's avatar

@virtualist I love that you posted those stats as that shows the other side of the driving danger spectrum. It’s true that teens are the larger risk-group while driving but the reason is where the difference lies. Irresponsibility, trying to show off, inexperience and a lack of applicable maturity causes teen driving issues and are not only hard to fight but hard to gauge by a simple driving test (now if you want to institute psychometric testing and breathalyzer ignition systems for all teen drivers that’s another issue) but the fact remains that teens can choose to be more responsible while driving whereas seniors (sometimes younger people) cannot choose to not have a degenerative condition or to simple have diminished cognitive and/or reflexive capacity… and therein lies the difference in prevention methodology between the two extremes in effective driving age groups.

janbb's avatar

@Dr_C You’re right and graduated license priviliges seem to be one of the ways toreduce teen accidents. Maybe similarly restrictive license priviliges could be worked in on the other end, i.e., no driving at night, etc.?

MagsRags's avatar

Here is a table on state by state laws on re-licensing requirements from a website called I see Illinois requires a driving test every 2 years 81–86yo and every year after 87. It looks like they’re one of the most stringent, and I wish my state did something similar.

poofandmook's avatar

I think that 65+ should have to retake with every renewal of the license at least, which here in New Jersey, that’s every four years.

I think ANYONE of ANY age should have to retake the test with their next renewal if they have a certain number of points on their license only.

That would include me, btw. lol

MerMaidBlu's avatar

Absolutely. I’d say once every twenty years or so. Once you get to a certain age your reaction time slows down making you a high risk for other drivers as well as yourself. Plus over half of them are driving well below the speed limit which can be just as dangerous as a driver who’s speeding excessively. You never see them getting pulled over for that though, unfortunately. It’s also very aggravating to be stuck behind an old person when you have somewhere to be and they are only using their brakes :)

Darwin's avatar

We live in Texas, and my dad went down to the DMV shortly after his 84th birthday to turn in his license for a state id card because he is becoming blind. Instead of issuing an id card, the clerk simply renewed his license, even though he couldn’t pass the eye test. However, he had already decided not to drive and had given his car away.

Then my mom had the same thing happen – she has severe Parkinson’s and my dad took her down to the DMV to get her an id card, and despite the fact that she was in a wheel chair and had no idea where she was they renewed her license, too.

Both my parents may legally drive for the next six years. Fortunately, they are wise enough to know they shouldn’t.

It could be worse – in Connecticut, where we lived when we had to take my grandfather’s keys away, you can still drive legally with 20/200 vision. And we didn’t actually take his keys away because he wouldn’t let us have them, However, after his last accident we refused to get his car repaired.

While I know many drivers over 65 who drive just fine, as well as many younger drivers who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the driver’s seat, I do think as folks age there should be some sort of method of evaluating their driving ability. In fact, it might be simpler to just require everybody who has had an accident during the term of their current license to retest rather than getting an automatic renewal through the mail. The difficulty is that people age at different rates and suffer from different impairments, so there is no “one size fits all” solution.

Val123's avatar

What I wish is that they could come up with the money to buy simulators, and throw the people in that so they can test their reactions without getting any one killed.
I also would like to see a new driver, getting his first license, thrown in a simulator and forced to experience some of the stuff they’re going to be facing. Good ones, too. Like, driving on a two lane at night, coming over a hill and HELLO! Car oncoming in your lane, passing other cars in a no passing zone. Head on, lights in your face, blinding you, about 1/10th of a second to react (and the kid is fiddling with the radio.) It’d sure stop that “Oh Muuuuther! I’m not going to get in a wreck! I’ve been driving for a month and I haven’t gotten into any wrecks.” They are so freaking clueless.

YARNLADY's avatar

I not only believe that older people should have to prove they are still physically capable of driving, but the taxpayers should be forced to pay for free transportation for every person who is proven physically unable to drive.

virtualist's avatar

@YARNLADY uh, no! Maybe some of the costs beyond what they were paying per year for insurance and upkeep on their car !

faye's avatar

People in Alberta must pass medicals before reissue of their drivers license at age 75.

Grisaille's avatar

Abso-freakin’-lutely. I’ve been saying this since the history of ever.

Test their reflexes, field of vision, coherence of road rules, etc. every 3–4 years.

Just_Justine's avatar

I didn’t read all the posts. But I did have some trauma with my dad. When he was about 76 he really started to lose it. He of course did not agree! So the car became a weapon of warfare. With me being the devil with the keys. He took my mom out for a drive one day, (they both had memory issues) and he got confused. My mom was so confused she didn’t even realize he was confused. Someone drove them both back to the home. They were lucky where in South Africa they could have been hijacked of course.

The funniest thing was when he would park in the trolley bay at the supermarket. I would shout no! please don’t. The trolley bay had yellow fencing around it. Often I would see his car with yellow marked dents. So I knew where he had been.

I think if the test said no he can’t drive, I would have felt less of an ogre. Taking his keys and car away. He must have hated me.

YARNLADY's avatar

In San Diego, a couple died because they took a wrong turn through some new construction and couldn’t find their way out. I just saw another report of a couple where the wife died in the car after it went off the road into an orchard, and the husband was found wandering dazed, apparently days later.

Judi's avatar

—all this is why I’m trying to get my husband to make a decision NOW about what age he will quit flying. He’ll be 60 this year. He’s still a good pilot, but will he recognize it when he’s not?

Coloma's avatar

Well..I am hardly “old” but, I am almost 53 and I know my eyesight and night vision has gotten worse in the last few years for sure. I don’t like driving at night unless I have to.
I also have not had to take a driving test for 10 years and my license is always extended another 5 years.
I am starting to get stressed that when I DO have to be tested again I will fail!
Still off the hook til 2015. lolol

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