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Drivers License Renewal Process for Seniors

As population continues to shift in the U.S. in terms of the age demographic, the senior citizen population continues to grow faster than any other driving-age group in the country. With more and more seniors taking to the roads each year, there has been an increased emphasis both from governmental agencies and the private sector to zero in on the safety of senior drivers. One particular area of focus has traditionally been in the drivers license renewal process for seniors in the United States. The process can take on different forms and carries different requirements in different states, but the thinking behind it is the same all across the country. The safety of senior drivers and of others on the road is the primary concern behind the particulars of each state's license renewal process for seniors.

Accelerated License Renewal Process for Senior Drivers

When you reach a certain age, the renewal process for keeping your drivers license current may change in many different ways. For example, many states have an accelerated renewal process for drivers who reach a certain age threshold, meaning you have to renew more often. Illinois is a particularly extreme example of accelerated renewal. The typical renewal cycle is every four years, but older drivers in Illinois have to renew more often. The cycle shortens to every two years if you are between the ages of 81 and 86 years old, and it ramps up again once you get to be 87. From then on as a senior driver you must renew your license every year [1].

Laws on both obtaining and renewing a license vary from state-to-state, as it is not a federally mandated issue at this time. Some states require a road test for renewal after a certain age, rather than simply allowing a standard renewal by mail. This is to ensure that older drivers have not lost their basic skills and understanding of the rules of the road. Many laws can and do change over time, and many states feel that it is in the best interest of all to gauge the abilities and awareness of the law that older drivers have.

Other states require senior citizens to begin renewing their license in person rather than by mail. For example, the California Department of Motor Vehicles requires drivers over the age of 70 to renew in person. Drivers in California renewing their license after age 70 may also be required to take a written test to prove they are aware of any new laws that may have been implemented in recent years. The written test exists simply because so many laws are changed or added every year. Seniors in California also have to take an eye test when they go in for renewal. This is one of the main reasons they have to go in person and cannot do the renewal and testing by mail. The idea behind the vision testing is to catch any medical or other conditions (which the senior driver may not even be aware of) that could be preventing them from functioning safely out on the road [2].

In some states, as a senior driver, if you get a ticket and the issuing officer thinks the offenses may have been caused by a lack of driving skill or basic knowledge of the rules of the road, he or she may also issue you a Request for Re-Examination. If this occurs, it means you will have to be re-tested in order to prove you are still a safe and knowledgeable driver. In addition, in many states, doctors are required to disclose certain medical conditions that could compromise your ability to safely operate an automobile in a special medical report to the state DMV in. Covered conditions usually include things like diabetes which cannot be controlled by medication; dementia; Alzheimer's disease; cataracts; epilepsy; muscular dystrophy; and muscular degeneration [2]. Different states have different lists of included medical conditions, and this is in no way an exhaustive list, but only a representative sample.

Reasons Behind Senior License Renewal Requirements

It may seem unfair that seniors often have to go through so much more trouble than the rest of the driving population just to keep their licenses up to date and maintain their driving privileges. But the truth is that the increased requirements stem more from a concern for safety than from anything else. State governments recognize that no two drivers are alike, and that just because seniors may show a tendency toward diminished driving abilities as a whole, that doesn't mean they should have their licenses stripped away after a certain age. For this reason, no state has compulsory license removal procedures directly tied to age.

However, statistics do show that seniors are among the most accident-prone of all age demographics out on the road, with the highest accident rate per mile of any age group [2], even higher than that of teenagers. It is in the best interests both of seniors and of the general driving population to take the time needed to evaluate their skills every so often to ensure they are fully equipped to take on the challenges of operating an automobile.

Studies of the performance and the physical attributes of the senior citizen driving population indicate the existence of many factors that can commonly lead to eroded driving ability in older drivers. For example, decreased eyesight is a natural occurrence that happens to almost everyone as we age. It can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, but most people simply do not see as well at night as they get older, even with vision correction. This can lead to unsafe driving practices after dark, due to poor depth perception at night and other sight-related factors.

Seniors sometimes also exhibit other signs of fading skills necessary to cope with the many challenges associated with driving a car. Reduced small-motor reaction time, risk-evaluation and decision-making skills, and lessened cognitive ability are all common occurrences among the older segment of the population, and all are essential to our functioning as safe and skilled drivers. Each of these and other factors associated with the normal aging process have to be monitored by both senior drivers and their family members in order to ensure that they are safe when they get behind the wheel of a car.

In many cases, it is not necessary for a senior driver beginning to feel the effects of aging to stop driving completely; quite a few seniors just decide not to drive long distances anymore, and they make an effort not to drive after dark. Making these kinds of choices in your driving habits when you begin to notice certain diminutive qualities in your overall skills can really go a long way toward keeping you safe, while helping keep others on the road safe as well. Many seniors nowadays are choosing to sharpen their skills by taking driving training courses and defensive driving classes. Along with these kinds of techniques, a simple rule of caution is advised for any senior who wishes to remain on the road and enjoy the freedom of driving.

[1] http://seniorjournal.com/NEWS/Politics/5-06-16DrivingLaws.htm Retrieved 2009-12-07.
[2] http://www.golocalnet.net/drive/agklm.htm Retrieved 2009-12-07.

 

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