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Should senior drivers take additional license tests in Florida?

Florida is home to many elderly people who enjoy the opportunity to maintain their independence. Some estimate that there are over 65,000 people over the age of 91 who still possess an active driver's license. While some say these drivers are among the safest on the roads, others say that diminished capabilities in older years contribute to numerous car accidents. The question remains: Should elderly drivers be required to take additional and more frequent license tests?

The issue has been hotly debated across the country. Currently, Florida is one of a handful of states that allows drivers to renew their licenses via mail or email, rather than in person. While some see this as a matter of convenience, others believe it leads to more and more unsafe drivers who are permitted on the road. At age 60, drivers in Florida are only required to renew their license every 6 years, and after 80 they must pass a vision test as well.

Many times, an elderly driver or their loved ones will decide when and if it is appropriate to curb driving habits. Pointing to the low rates of fatal accidents, some say that these drivers do not travel far and only drive on familiar roads. Until the age of 85, drivers have similar fatal crash rates as those who are in their 30s. After a driver is 85, however, he or she is most likely to be involved in a fatal car accident. These numbers are expected to change as more and more of the population enters their senior years.

Health issues are listed among the chief concerns for elderly drivers. Vision is often impaired, movement is limited and mental capabilities may decline as well. The combination of these factors leads people to believe that senior drivers pose a greater danger on the road.

However, many times it is only after an accident that a person may decide to alter their driving habits. Making sure that drivers of any age are safe and capable of operating a vehicle is important. Statistics can point to patterns of dangerous driving, but in the event of an accident, individual circumstances should be investigated.

Source: Fox News, "Diminished motor skills: 'Silver tsunami' of elderly drivers prompts tough decisions," Joshua Rhett Miller, April 16, 2012

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