Law Offices of Paul K. Schrier, PLLC

Is it time to take away that old guy's driver's license?

Throughout Florida, we hear the common cry every time a senior citizen causes a car accident, "Can't we take away their driver's license?!" According to WorldAtlas, Florida currently leads the nation with 2.7 million drivers over the age of 65; roughly 19 percent of all drivers on the roads. Despite special rules the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) has put in place for seniors to retain their driver's licenses, we still lead the nation in the number of fatal car accidents involving older drivers.

The deadliest year

The National Safety Council (NSC) recently reported that 2016 proved to be the deadliest year for Florida drivers and passengers, with more than 1,600 people losing their lives in accidents involving motor vehicles. While age statistics for 2016 fatalities aren't yet available, a 2010 article in the SunSentinel reported that 503 car crashes resulting in a fatality involved a senior citizen behind the wheel. It can probably be assumed that the percentages will be roughly the same for 2016.

So, are senior drivers really a problem?

We've all heard the complaints about senior citizens. Many local drivers say there are too many retired people who move to Florida and don't know the roads. Some have eyesight or hearing trouble that causes problems in low light or visibility. With age comes delayed reaction time and many can't cope with faster traffic buzzing around them.

But to say that senior drivers cause the high accident rates doesn't reflect reality. In many cases, senior citizens have gone through defensive driver courses and remedial training to retain or renew their driver's licenses. Matthew Ubben, president of Floridians for Better Transportation says that much of the problem with increased accidents among senior drivers has to do with poorly designed roads. Many roads were designed and built decades ago, when they accommodated significantly less traffic at lower speeds. The group has asked the Florida legislature for more than $415 million in revenue from the driver's license and tab fund to go toward new road construction projects.

In addition, local driving patterns may be unfamiliar to people of any age who are new to a community. One example is the center "suicide" turn lane along much of Highways 1 and the A1A along the Eastern Atlantic Coast.

Older drivers feel the pressure and many do something about it

Under Florida law, every six years all drivers over 80 must pass a vision test at the DHSMV office or have a doctor administer the test. The state may deny the renewal or place other restrictions on drivers who don't meet minimum requirements.

Simply taking away the driver's licenses of senior citizens isn't the right answer, nor would it necessarily reduce accident rates. Many seniors realize their skills behind the wheel are diminished so they slow down and drive more carefully. Many others enroll in special training courses available online or through community education programs. Unfortunately, many drivers of younger generations would not participate in remedial driving classes unless ordered by a court because of traffic violations.

A good list of these courses can be found at the Senior Safety Resource Center website.

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