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Elderly Driver Licensing Laws

Elderly Driver License Laws

The U.S. will face a number of novel challenges in the future as the country's population of elderly drivers explodes. Currently, according to Department of Transportation statistics, 13% of the U.S. population is over the age of 65. By the year 2030, this number is expected to reach 70 million seniors, comprising an estimated 20% of the population. Clearly, in light of this unstoppable trend, both car insurers and motor vehicle departments will have to revise their current methods of dealing with the elderly. Presently, most companies' policy on insuring senior drivers is to deny coverage once they reach age 75. As the Baby Boomers age en masse, this strategy will undoubtedly become antiquated and impractical. Likewise, elderly driver licensing laws will have to evolve with the trend to accommodate the changing face of the American populace.

Insuring Senior Drivers

Drivers over the age of 65 have a higher number of crash fatalities for each mile they drive than any other demographic, save for teens. Similarly, studies have shown that drivers over the age of 80 pose especially high risks to pedestrians and other drivers. In the past, insurers have tried to minimize risk by denying all new applications for coverage for drivers over 75 or 80. Moving forward, though, insurers have begun looking for alternative strategies to manage risk while preserving the driving privileges of the elderly as much as possible. For one, insurers have started acknowledging the fact that seniors tend to drive much less frequently than other drivers. As such, their driving exposure is usually minimal. Insurers might respond to this demand by reducing premiums for seniors who drive a minimal number of miles per year (less than 2,000, for example). This helps insurers mitigate risk without punishing seniors on the assumption that they are all dangerous behind the wheel.

Driver Licensing Laws

At the urging of insurance companies, motor vehicle departments have implemented graduated licensing programs for young drivers in every state. However, driver licensing laws concerning the elderly have remained relatively unchanged. Most commonly, the only test motor vehicle departments use to measure a senior driver's fitness is a visual acuity test. Some states have recently introduced stricter renewal qualifications, also known as de-licensing legislation, for senior drivers. The states that have passed de-licensing laws usually concentrate on the following points:

  • Driving test in the field
  • Simulated driving tests
  • Mandatory in-person renewal
  • Abbreviated renewal length times
  • Required vision tests
  • More input from doctors and medical advisory boards
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