On January 10, a 94-year-old Old Lyme resident was pulling into a parking space at St. Mark's Church when she inadvertently hit the accelerator instead of the brake. According to a police report filed at State Police Troop F in Westbrook, the driver struck the building. Luckily, she was unharmed and did no damage to the building. Police did, however, take away her driver's license.
Connecticut has pretty tough driving laws. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) imposes very strict requirements on teen drivers and a law that went into effect this year now requires that all new Connecticut drivers of any age hold a learner's permit for three months. Yet the state has few specific laws when it comes to elderly drivers.
According to a 2010 report, “Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile: Preserving the Mobility and Safety of Older Americans,” 20 percent of drivers in Connecticut are over the age of 65. That's tied with West Virginia for the highest percentage of drivers over 65 in the nation. Florida came in third at 18 percent.
Yet Florida requires drivers over age 80 to pass a visual test before it renews licenses. In Connecticut, drivers over the age of 65 are required to renew their licenses in person every two years, as opposed to every five years, but vision tests are not required. Only New Hampshire and Illinois require road tests for people 75 or older.
Keeping Seniors on the Road
The DMV's stated goal is to help keep elderly drivers on the road as long as possible. Older drivers are not routinely screened to see if they have any physical or medical issues that may impair their ability to drive. The only time DMV would be notified of potential problems would be if police, a medical doctor, or an optometrist contacted the department or if a concerned third party sent in a notarized affidavit.
DMV's Medical Advisory Board reviews any license revocations under such circumstances and may decide to temporarily suspend, permanently revoke, or restore the person's license based on the person's driving and medical history. In some cases, DMV may restore the license but impose certain driving restrictions such as the time of day a person may drive or setting limits on highway driving.
A national AAA survey found that 80 percent of senior drivers "self-police," opting not to drive during rush hour, for instance, or at night.
Do you think the state should impose additional requirements or tests for elderly drivers? Let us know in the comments section.