Officials concerned about older Nevada drivers
CARSON CITY (AP) – Statistics show that older drivers tend to get into almost as many serious auto accidents as teenagers – but while Nevada lawmakers have imposed restrictions on younger drivers, they haven’t done the same for seniors still behind the wheel.
“It’s a political hot potato,” says Chuck Abbott, director of the state Office of Traffic Safety. “Older drivers are becoming a bigger and bigger problem. If you look at the fatality rates, older drivers are up there with new drivers.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found last year that drivers over age 74 are involved in six fatal crashes per 100 million miles driven, a rate slightly exceeded by teenage drivers.
The fatality rate for driver’s 85 and older was nine times that of drivers 25 to 55. But the physical fragility of older drivers contributes to that statistic.
Only the state of Illinois requires senior drivers to submit to mandatory road test examinations to keep drivers licenses after age 75. Drivers 87 and older in that state must renew their license every year. In Nevada, one generally can get a driver’s license at age 16 and keep it without ever taking a retest.
Nationwide, 35 million people age 65 and older are drivers. That number is expected to top 70 million in 2030. As of last July, Nevada had 231,000 drivers over the age of 65, including 11,000 who were 85 and older.
The only driving requirement for Nevada senior citizens is that those 70 or older who renew their licenses by mail must send in a statement from a physician that they are physically fit to drive. They don’t need the statement if they show up to renew at the DMV office.
Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman Tom Jacobs said under state law his agency can’t order someone to retest solely because of age.
Jacobs said a technician must “make a judgment that there is something wrong with a driver. A license is a ticket to freedom for both younger drivers and older drivers. We are married to our cars.”
The American Association of Retired Persons opposes laws that mandate retesting when drivers reach a certain age.
“A person 50 can be incapable of driving,” said Deborah Moore, AARP’s Nevada spokeswoman. “A person 75 can be vibrant and fit.”
Moore said AARP sponsors a $10 course to teach older people driving skills and educate them on vision, mental and physical losses that result from aging.
“We support keeping the roads safe for everyone,” she said. “Should there be a more frequent assessment of older drivers? No. Age in itself is not an accurate indication of a person’s driving ability.”
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