Editorial: Safer roads for all
Driving tests for elderly a no-brainer
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 16:02
Forgive us for stating the obvious when we, a student editorial staff, support a bill that would require elderly drivers to take driving tests to renew their licenses in New Hampshire. But there is opposition to this potential law and we feel the need to point out its merits.
The bill would help prevent future accidents like what happened to 31-year-old firefighter Jeff Lewis of Weare. Lewis was directing traffic in early January when a 91-year-old woman struck him with her car. She was charged with vehicular assault and reckless operation, while Lewis was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Up until two years ago, New Hampshire law required those over the age of 75 to take a driving test in order to renew their licenses. But in August of 2011, the New Hampshire Senate passed House Bill 549, which ended that requirement. Drivers over the age of 75 can now renew their licenses online.
When passing that bill, Sen. Sylvia Larsen (D-Concord) said that a case could be made that older drivers are amongst the safest of all motor vehicle operators. That case, however, could not possibly be backed by facts.
A 2007 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that those aged 75 and older are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than any other age group. According to a 2012 report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, people older than the age of 85 have a 10 times greater chance to die in a car accident than those aged 40 to 49. Preventing car accidents involving the elderly is not just necessary to protect others; it will protect the elderly themselves.
Slowing of the reflexes and worsening eyesight are also scientifically proven to occur as people age. Unfortunately, many lawmakers do not take science as seriously as they should when making policy decisions.
The argument that testing the elderly is age discrimination does not hold up either when considering that teenage drivers are held to tighter regulations than other age groups.
Senior citizens who believe they are fit to drive well into their 80s and beyond have every right to stay on the roads, so long as they can prove that they are still capable drivers. If a law is passed again in New Hampshire to test elderly drivers, those senior citizens who retain their licenses can drive without facing the stigma of being labeled “too old” to drive based on their appearance. And their fellow drivers, pedestrians, crossing guards and others can go about their day on the roads feeling a little bit safer as well.