Thanks to healthier lifestyles and ongoing advances in medical technology, Americans are living longer. Today’s senior citizens feel better, are more active after retirement, and are determined to keep their independence. This includes retaining their driving privileges for as long as possible, increasing the importance of elderly driving laws.
Elderly Driving Habits by the Numbers
America’s senior population is expected to skyrocket as over 75 million baby boomers grow older. These are people who, unlike their parents, grew up behind the wheel and will want to continue to drive. Back in the 1970s, less than half of all Americans over the age of 65 had a driver’s license. Today, that number is approximately 84 percent, with an estimated 40 million seniors being licensed drivers in 2015.
By most accounts, seniors have a good safety record as drivers. They are more inclined to wear seat belts, drive within the speed limit, and refrain from risky behaviors such as DUI and distracted driving. They are also healthier than their predecessors and, in general, less likely than previous generations of elderly drivers to be involved in a crash.
Although this is all great news, the unavoidable fact is that senior drivers face challenges connected to the aging process, such as a decline in hearing, vision, and cognitive function. They are also at higher risk of developing medical conditions that can affect their driving and are more likely to be injured or killed in a crash than younger drivers.
Unfortunately, there are elderly drivers who, afraid of losing their independence, insist on driving long after it is safe for them to do so. According to AAA, seniors are outperforming their ability to drive safely by seven to 10 years on average. Although this is a national concern, Maine’s demographics suggest that it may be more affected than other states.
Maine Elderly Driving Laws
With nearly 19% of its population being 65 or older, Maine has the second highest percentage of elderly residents in the country. (Only Florida has a higher senior population.) Demographers project that by 2032, a third of the state’s population will be 65 or over.
The Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles has developed a number of special restrictions, requirements in elderly driving laws, making it easier to identify and work with those who may present a safety risk behind the wheel. Maine’s elderly driving laws are as follows:
- All drivers renewing their license for the first time after the age of 40 must undergo a vision test. Testing must then be performed at every alternate renewal until the age of 62.
- After 62 years of age, vision testing is required at every renewal. Results must be 20/40 or better.
- Drivers aged 65 and older must renew their licenses every four years, as opposed to every six years like other drivers.
The Bureau of Motor Vehicles also listens to concerns about driving ability from anyone who has personal knowledge of the driver, such as a friend, family member, or medical professional.
Many Maine seniors live in rural areas with limited access to public transportation, making it necessary for them to drive in some instances. With these senior drivers, the BMV may place special restrictions on their license. Restriction types will vary based on the results of:
- The driving test
- Vision testing
- The driving examiner’s assessment
The purpose of a restricted license is to allow people to drive, but only within their abilities. Common examples of license restrictions placed on elderly drivers include:
- Wearing eyeglasses, corrective contact lenses, or other special eyewear while driving
- No driving during rush hour or after dark
- No freeway driving
- Driving is restricted to a specific geographical location
- The use of extra support to maintain a correct and safe driving position
Let’s not forget one of the biggest sources of support for elderly drivers: their families. Family members can assist with transportation, reducing the need for their loved one to get behind the wheel. Family members can gently remind their loved one when it’s time to hang up the keys. These can be difficult conversations, but the fact that older drivers have higher rates of fatal crashes than other age groups makes these conversations necessary.
What’s the Bottom Line?
If you or someone you love has been injured in a collision involving an elderly driver, contact Fales & Fales, P.A. We are committed to protecting the rights and interests of car accident victims throughout the Lewiston-Auburn area, and want to hear from you. To schedule a confidential consultation and case review, call 1-888-526-9408 today.