Can Stricter Licensing Requirements for Elderly Drivers in Massachusetts Help Make Our Roads Safer?

Two recent Massachusetts car accidents have once again raised the issue of the safety of some elderly drivers. Last week a 73-year old woman lost control of her car and drove it into a crowd of people viewing “The Moving Wall,” a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Plymouth, MA, injuring eight people. The same week, a 93-year old man plowed into a Wal-Mart in Danvers, MA, causing personal injury to six people including an infant.

For years, the debate over elderly driving has been waged in Massachusetts, yet nothing concrete has been done. Generally, once a person has passed the initial road test, only a vision test is required for renewal. Yet as the body ages, this simply is not safe.

Some elderly advocates say that the media has been blowing elderly driving accidents out of proportion, while similar accidents by younger drivers go unnoticed. Research indicates that risk begins to increase around age 70, and increases significantly after age 80.

For the last two sessions one state senator, Brian Joyce of Milton, MA, has proposed a bill that would require drivers 85 or older to pass another road test before their licenses could be renewed. However, this bill is always stalled by advocates for the elderly who cry age discrimination. This year Governor Patrick has indicated his support for the bill. Representatives from the RMV say that the agency would be willing to support a study on the issue as is proposed in a bill sponsored by Sen. Stephen Buoniconti.

In some states, doctors are required by law to report to the registry when a person is unfit to drive, but not in Massachusetts. Right now there are no state laws or tests in place to protect residents from unfit elderly drivers. Sometimes a police officer or a family member will report a medically impaired driver, but so far only 8,000 cases have come under review.

We support enhanced testing of elderly drivers, just as we supported the stricter regulation of younger drivers which are now the law in Massachusetts. We have handled many cases where we have seen that the age of a driver has been a factor in the accident.

Of course if an elderly driver causes an accident, their license may be revoked or suspended. But sometimes it is too late. If you have been injured by a medically unfit driver in Massachusetts, contact the Massachusetts personal injury law firm of Breakstone, White & Gluck, P.C. for a free legal consultation.

More Information

Pressure mounts to test elder drivers, Boston Globe, June 8, 2009.

Family and Friends Concerned about an Older Driver, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration