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Could Requiring Senior Drivers to Retake Their License Exam Impact Auto Insurance?

In March 2011, a Marist Poll revealed that two-thirds of Americans believe that drivers should be retested for their license once they reach the age of 65, even if they have a good driving history. Many experts believe that driving capabilities can diminish when drivers get older from failing eyesight as well as other physical issues and mental restrictions.

But is it a good idea to have seniors to retake their drivers license test once they reach a certain age? Have states looked into this requirement for drivers? Could taking a step like this affect auto insurance rates?

Americans Want Drivers Retested

The Marist Poll found that a high number of drivers want seniors to be retested for their licenses when they reach the age of 65. Stats from each age group include:

  • Below 30: 84 percent of people below the age of 30 believe drivers 65 and older should be retested.
  • 30 to 44: 76 percent of drivers in the mid age range believe seniors should be retested.
  • 45 to 59: Even 62 percent of drivers ages 45 to 59 believe seniors should be retested.

What’s even more interesting is that the poll found that half of drivers over the age of 60 also believe being retested in their mid-60s is a good idea. Seeing that these drivers are aware of their own physical and mental capabilities, retesting may be something that should be strongly considered.

Are Senior Drivers More Dangerous?

A study released in 2007 by Carnegie Mellon University found that drivers over 85-years old were four times as likely as teens to die in a car accident while drivers aged 75-85 have approximately the same risk as drivers aged 16-20.

These stats aren’t exactly comforting considering that this means you’re better off riding with a teenager who is still learning how to drive than a senior in many circumstances.

Of course, these stats do not represent the whole of the population. There are still many senior drivers who are able to manage themselves behind the wheel. But there are concerns that the inability to hear sirens and honking, not being able to see from all angles and suffering from slow responses could create significant safety issues on the road.

An example of this occurred in April 2011 in La Mesa, Calif. when a 92-year-old woman was accidentally run over and killed by her husband of 70 years outside of her sister’s home. James Mosley, also 92, accelerated the car in reverse for unknown reasons and ejected his wife Berniece out of the car. Once ejected, he drove the car backwards into a cul de sac and accidentally ran her over.

Of course, this isn’t the first incident that a senior driver has caused a serious accident. In 2003, an 83-year-old man drove through a crowded farmer’s market. How did it occur? He hit the accelerator instead of the brake.

It’s clear that in both cases, the drivers were not completely aware of their actions as they operated their vehicles. But do these incidents mean that all drivers over a certain age should be required to retake their license test?

Some States Have Laws to Retest Senior Drivers

While retesting seniors hasn’t been one of the biggest issues in the world of road safety, it is something that has come to the attention of lawmakers in certain states.

So far, two states, Illinois and New Hampshire, require drivers over the age of 75 to pass a road test when renewing their license. Requiring the retake seems to have made a difference so far since about 10 percent of drivers in New Hampshire who are required to retake fail the test every year.

Other states are not as strict as Illinois and New Hampshire, but do have rules for their senior drivers. For instance, California, Florida, Oregon, Maine, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia require drivers over the age of 70 to pass a vision and medical test administered by their doctors in order to continue driving.

Arizona requires drivers 65 and older to renew every five years while a person 70 and older must renew in person and have a vision test within three months.

And other states like Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, as well as the District of Columbia require drivers to renew their licenses in person when they reach a specified age.

How Could Retesting Seniors Affect Auto Insurance?

There are some definite benefits to retesting drivers once they reach the age of 65. One benefit is that road safety experts have an opportunity to take the precautions necessary to ensure the roads are safe as often as possible.

Another benefit is that retesting is not a true imposition. If the person is a good driver, they’re license will be renewed, no matter how old they are.

But aside from safety, probably the biggest benefit is that retesting could help keep insurance rates low. The Carnegie Mellon study found that 72 out of every 1,000 property damage liability auto insurance claims made between 1999 and 2001 were caused by senior drivers ages 85 and older. This number was only beat by teen drivers ages 16 to 19.

It’s no secret that increased auto insurance claims not only affect the rates of drivers involved in accidents, but also the rates of drivers across the board.

By issuing a senior driving test to individuals when they reach an age that has been proven difficult for some drivers, road safety experts could not only increase the odds of ensuring roads are safer for drivers and pedestrians, but also help to keep auto insurance rates lower for all drivers.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 and is filed under Auto Insurance. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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