Tools for older drivers

If you have an older driver in your household – or if you are an older driver yourself – you may be wondering what your state law is about when and if you need to be tested. Some states have no special requirments based on age. Some require older drivers to renew in person. Many require vision tests or proof from an optometrist that vision has been tested.
Few, if any, states require road tests for aging drivers. Several states have looked into laws to impose manadatory tests after a certain age (often age 75), but these have generally been defeated, either because there was not sufficient evidence that they would reduce collisions, or because they were viewed as discrimantory. However, most states will accept reports of potentially dangerous drivers from police, family or other observers and may require tests based on such reports. Some states also allow tests to be required at renewal based on observations of potential impairment by registry of motor vehicle employees. Selective tests based on reports or observations aren’t necessarily restricted by age! Some states will revoke licenses based on any problems that turn up, while others impose restrictions, such as driving only in daylight hours.
There’s no consistency state to state – here’s a handy State by State Look at Driving Rules for Older Drivers.
Aging drivers should be aware that there are many new safety tools that can help reduce risks commonly associated with aging, such as diminished vision. See the Top 10 Car Technologies For Mature Drivers, as well as 10 Vision Safety Tips for Older Drivers.
It would be ideal if everyone could self-assess and make the decision to limit or stop driving as they feel abilities diminish – some peopel do indeed do that. But because giving up a car is so tied with independence, many are reluctant to give up driving. And some may lose objectivity – they may “feel” like they are still driving safely. It often requires intercession of a caring family member or friend. See our prior post on Helping senior drivers to make a tough decision: hanging up the keys.

Helping senior drivers to make a tough decision: hanging up the keys

Good Morning America has been airing a series on aging and one of the difficult topics they are tackling is the issue of senior driving. In Mom & Dad, we need to talk, they explore the ways that adult children can help their parents make the difficult and often painful decision to hang up the car keys.
It’s not an issue that should be put off because, at some point, it’s a matter of safety – both for the elderly drivers and for the general public. GMA cites some grim statistics:

“Although most senior citizens are careful behind the wheel, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers older than 70 have a higher fatality rate per mile than any other group, except people under 25. And most of those fatalities happened at some kind of crossroads.
A 2007 study released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that 40 percent of serious crashes at intersections involved people older than 70. Add to this the fact that the number of elderly drivers is projected to double to 70 million by the year 2030 and you have the makings of a potentially dangerous problem.”

They also publicize AARP’s 10 warning signs for when to limit or stop driving.

  1. Almost crashing, with frequent “close calls”
  2. Finding dents and scrapes on the car, on fences, mailboxes, garage doors, curbs, or the like
  3. Getting lost
  4. Having trouble seeing or following traffic signals, road signs, and pavement markings
  5. Responding more slowly to unexpected situations, or having trouble moving your foot from the gas to the brake pedal; confusing the two pedals
  6. Misjudging gaps in traffic at intersections and on highway entrance and exit ramps
  7. Experiencing road rage or having other drivers frequently honk at you
  8. Easily becoming distracted or having difficulty concentrating while driving
  9. Having a hard time turning around to check over your shoulder while backing up or changing lanes
  10. Receiving traffic tickets or “warnings” from traffic or law enforcement officers in the last year or two

Don’t be a victim: be alert for insurance fraud and scams

Especially in this tough economy, The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is warning consumers to keep their guard up to avoid becoming victims of insurance fraud. When it comes to insurance pricing, it’s best to adhere to the old adage of “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.” According to NAIC:

“Fake insurance companies and dishonest insurance agents can defraud consumers by collecting premiums for bogus policies with no intention or ability to pay claims. Phony home, health, life and auto policies typically are offered at rates that are significantly lower than the traditional market price in order to woo consumers who are trying to save money.”

They suggest that if you are unsure of the company or agent that you are dealing with, take these three steps:

  • STOP before signing any paperwork or writing a check
  • CALL your state insurance department, which is easily reached by phone
  • CONFIRM that the company or agent offering insurance is legitimate and licensed in the state.

Here’s a clickable map to find your state insurance authority and here’s the NAIC Consumer Information Source, where you can file complaints or do research on company complaints and financial information.
It can also be helpful to keep informed about common fraud schemes. The Coalition for Insurance Fraud posts consumer insurance scam alerts and they feature a good list of insurance fraud links for consumers. The FBI also posts updates for common fraud schemes. Be sure to keep an eye out for your senior relatives and friends too – senior citizens are prime targets for various types of fraud, including insurance fraud.