One of the most common concerns at the
center of elder rights debates is senior driver rights. Compared to other
crucial issues, the importance of senior driver rights may seem insignificant.
However, restricting an elderly individual’s right to operate a motor vehicle
may have substantial implications for his/her daily routine, as well as his/her
As an individual begins to age, he/she gradually begins
losing his/her ability to partake in activities that he/she once enjoyed. An
elder will often be required to depend upon other people for physical,
emotional, and financial support. Elderly individuals often experience a sense
of confinement and isolation, and they feel as if they are losing their
freedom. Individuals often find it difficult to cope with aging and to accept
the restrictions that accompany this process. The loss of certain rights and
privileges often leads to low self-esteem and depression.
The same is true when a senior driver
loses his/her driving privileges. Driving is often associated with freedom.
When an individual is able to drive and has access to a motor vehicle to
operate, he/she can go wherever he/she wishes, whenever he/she chooses. When
elderly individuals face the possibility of having their license revoked, they
are being stripped of this freedom.
The emotional effects of this loss are
significant, however, the practical, everyday significance that this loss will
have on an individual’s life may also be substantial. When senior drivers
relinquish their driver’s license, they are required to depend on other people
for transportation. This means that elders must plan their life around another
individual’s schedule. This is not only inconvenient and potentially irritating
to the elder, but may also cause complications if he/she needs to unexpectedly
The above are undoubtedly legitimate
concerns. Nevertheless, it is important to analyze the information and
statistics related to senior drivers before criticizing the restrictions that
some states have placed on elders. Statistics indicate that senior drivers are
more likely to suffer from fatal injuries if they are involved in car accidents
than other individuals are. Elderly individuals tend to have slower reaction
times, making a senior driver less likely to effectively act in unexpected
situations. Research suggests that senior drivers are more likely to become
confused while driving, which results in erratic and often dangerous driving.
They may drift or swerve in between lanes without warning.
This is not to say that
all elderly individuals are incapable of properly operating a motor vehicle or
that all senior drivers are dangerous. However, based upon statistics, some
states have established legislation aimed at ensuring the capability of senior
drivers. Laws regarding driving rights of elderly individuals vary a great deal
from one state to another.
Although elders are able to voluntarily relinquish
their license, no state legislation allows authorities to strip an individual
of their driving privileges without just cause. Some states require a senior
driver to receive eye examinations every two years, as opposed to every four
California law requires elders to undergo a driving test if they have
been involved in at least two accidents within the same year. In the state of
Pennsylvania, doctors are required to inform authorities if they have reason to
suspect that an elderly patient is impaired or should not be operating a motor
vehicle. Some states have found it difficult to establish elderly driving laws
because many people argue that this is a blatant form of
rights, the safety of both the elder driver and
other drivers is also a concern.