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Safe driving – for all ages

Laws placing special demands on older drivers ought to be changed in favor of a system that simply asks: Is this person qualified to drive?

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The number of Americans over age 65 will nearly double by 2030 as baby boomers join that age group. As a result, states are struggling with an influx of older drivers and whether to require more frequent examinations of their abilities to handle a vehicle.

In Massachusetts, after several highly publicized accidents involving seniors behind the wheel, the legislature is considering a bill that would single out older drivers for more testing than younger drivers.

But laws based on age have never made less sense than today, when Americans are more active than ever at advanced ages. A more thoughtful alternative has been offered by Safe Roads Now, a Massachusetts group made up of local members of AAA and AARP, as well as experts on aging.

Currently 26 states put special conditions or requirements on older drivers, such as more frequent license renewals or requiring that renewals take place in person, which allows for various tests to judge the driver's abilities. Some ask for other restrictions, such as no night driving or driving only within a restricted area or on specific routes.

The recommendations from Safe Roads Now ask the state of Massachusetts to require all drivers to make in-person renewals of their licenses. The visit would include vision and other skills tests, and tests of driving knowledge. If the driver (of any age) fails these, he or she might be asked to take a road test.


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