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Elderly Old Lyme Resident Hit a Wall After Mistaking Accelerator for Brake

Connecticut has tough driving restrictions for teens and now requires new drivers of all ages to hold a learner's permit for three months—but should laws be tightened for elderly drivers?

 

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. 

Matt Gurwell January 23, 2013 at 03:24 PM
Excellent article, Jayne! May I add that Keeping Us Safe is a national organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families. "Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for older drivers and their families" serves as the foundation of our family-centered "Beyond Driving with Dignity" program. For families that might benefit from third-party, impartial intervention in resolving this very delicate and sensitive issue, we offer you our Certified "Beyond Driving with Dignity" professionals. These individuals have been specially trained and certified in the "Enhanced Self-Assessment Program" for older drivers. Our “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals are deployed throughout the United States and Canada. Keeping Us Safe was established in 2008 by a retired State Trooper that still has a passion for preventing highway fatalities. The "Beyond Driving with Dignity" program is designed to help older drivers with diminishing driving skills make a smooth transition from the driver's seat to the passenger seat without deterioration to their dignity, personal pride or independence. Our programs are designed to save lives while simultaneously helping to ease the burden of the family as they find themselves faced with this very challenging issue. For more information, visit Keeping Us Safe at http://www.keepingussafe.org or call us toll free at 877-907-8841.

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