It’s no secret that America is getting older. Senior citizens face many challenges in these turbulent times, but for many, one painful and contentious issue is deciding when it’s time to give up the car keys. It’s a matter that strikes at the heart of an individual’s sense of personal liberty and competence, and it’s often a decision that an elderly person can’t make on their own. Unfortunately, elderly drivers who insist on driving beyond the time they can do so safely present a danger to themselves and others on the road. It’s a nationwide problem, but the data shows Maine may be impacted more than most states.
Elderly Driving Statistics in the US: The Graying Of America
According to a report released by the transportation think tank TRIP, when the first Baby Boomers turned 65 in 2011, citizens 65 and older constituted 13% of the U.S. population. The report estimated that number would grow by 60% through 2021. There are now more than 35 million drivers 65 or older in this country.
A 2015 survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International found that a surprising 14 million Americans said they had been involved in an accident caused by an older driver in the previous year alone.
Elderly Driving Statistics in Maine
The Maine statistics are noteworthy. According to the TRIP study, Maine ranked 9th in the nation for the number of drivers age 65 and older, and 4th in the number of fatal crashes attributed to those drivers.
According to Dr. Daniel Onion, an expert on the issue of elderly driving and a consultant with the Maine Senior Driver’s Coalition, “Maine is one of the oldest states in the country. The vast majority of senior drivers do a good job, recognize they have problems and take measures to correct them. A small percentage have a cognitive impairment and they can’t recognize their own disabilities. That’s when interventions are called for.”
There are many factors that explain why Elderly Driving has become an increasingly important issue, especially in Maine:
- Senior Citizens tend to live in rural areas, of which Maine has plenty
- The lack of public transportation throughout the state means many older residents simply have no choice but to drive
- Advances in medical technology and health care mean many elderly people feel capable of continuing to drive well past the point when previous generations may have stopped driving.
Maine Laws on Elderly Driving
Currently, the only special requirements that the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles imposes on drivers 65 or older is renewal of their driver’s licenses every four years, as opposed to renewal every 6-8 years for other drivers. Starting at age 62, drivers have to pass a vision test every time they renew their license (vision must be 20/40 or better). These drivers can either take the vision test for free at their local BMV branch or bring in documentation from a private doctor.
The BMV can also issue a restricted license in certain cases, based on what the BMV calls a Functional Ability Profile. Here are some examples of how the BMV can restrict a license:
- Limit driving to certain areas or within a certain distance of the driver’s home;
- Require glasses or other special aids while driving;
- Restrict motor vehicle operation to daylight hours only;
- And, in some situations, a senior driver may be required to submit a full medical report in order to renew their license.
Searching For Solutions
The Maine Driver Safety Coalition, an association of concerned groups from state agencies, private businesses, senior organizations, and healthcare groups, has been searching for ways to assist the growing number of elderly drivers on the highways and byways of Maine. Much of the focus has been on lobbying, seeking funding for alternate transportation options for seniors, and public education efforts.
Many of those involved in these issues point out that family members can be the greatest help when it comes to senior drivers. Family can help with transportation. Ultimately family members can weigh in when it’s time for their loved one to stop driving.
If you, or someone you know, has been involved in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, contact Fales & Fales, P.A. for a free and confidential consultation.