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New Law to Require Elderly Drivers To Pass Brain Test – Do We Need it in Michigan?

Elderly driver
Carsten Koall, Getty Images

My family negotiated a very difficult situation with my mother-in-law in regards to her driving abilities after she turned 70. She was healthy, but while she was driving, she would get lost, or forget where she was going. Mary would often call for directions, even though she had been driving to these places for most of her adult life. She had no problem getting her license renewed, but we were quickly doubting her ability to drive safely. Have you ever wondered if older drivers needed a specialized test to drive?

We are a nation of drivers! We love our cars and the freedom that they allow us to have, whether it’s a quick trip to the grocery store, or a trip from sea to shining sea. For older drivers, though, it comes down to an issue of driving safely. In the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fatal crash rates start increasing for drivers over the age of 75, and then really rise for drivers over the age of 80.

To combat that alarming statistic, John Harms, a Nebraska State Senator has proposed Legislative House Bill 351, which would require driver’s license examiners to administer a simple cognitive test to evaluate long and short term memory, and to potentially spot signs of dementia in applicants over the age of 80.

As you can imagine, senior citizens are opposed to the proposed piece of legislation. They say that it should be a matter of health, not age that determines your ability to drive a vehicle.They point to a lot of 50 and 60 year old drivers with physical and mental ailments that could impair their driving.

My family eventually had to take the keys from my mother-in-law, and I don’t think she ever really forgave us. Her car was her freedom, and she didn’t like not having that in her life. It would have been so much easier to blame the state of Michigan for the forfeiture of her driving privileges, as opposed to all of us being the enemy. But we knew that safety had to come first.

Do you think that elderly drivers should have to pass a special set of tests to look for signs of dementia? If so, at what age should these tests begin?


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