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States take different paths to address senior drivers

September 18, 2012

As the number of older adults grows, states are often faced with a tricky situation. There is an ever-growing number of seniors on the road, and lawmakers have to find a way to make sure older adults are able to drive safely. The concern has led to a number of different rules and restrictions depending on what state a person lives in, The Associated Press reports.

Thirty different states (and Washington, D.C.) have some sort of driving rules aimed specifically at seniors behind the wheel, however they vary widely from state to state. For instance, Maryland starts making regular eye exams a requirement when drivers are just 40 years old. Other states, such as Texas and Georgia, have made changes to the time in between license renewals.

The issue is a complicated one, some experts say. Primarily, it's not that older adults are predisposed to being unsafe drivers, but that certain health conditions might make them unfit to be behind the wheel. But since it can be difficult to notice certain changes in health, authorities have little else to go on than using age as a barometer.

"You should be looking at your drivers to be sure they're able to safely drive. There's plenty of research that as we age, things do change and we may not be aware of those changes," Susan Cohen, an advocate for driving competency tests, told the AP.

For some, being able to drive is a crucial component of independent living, and though there are some concerns about older adults being behind the wheel, there is some evidence that suggests they are not more dangerous. Most recently, a recent study from the UK found older adults are no more likely to be in a fatal accident than younger motorists, according to Reuters.