Last month a woman drove the wrong way on the Bayway, hit a state trooper and later died, In March, a woman accidentally ran her car into the Kingswood apartment complex. Fortunately, no one was hurt. And on Fat Tuesday in Gulf Shores this year, a man plowed into a group of band students waiting to parade, injuring 12. What do all of those incidents have in common? They were all caused by drivers who were over 70 years old. But Alabama does not require additional testing for senior drivers or for them to renew their license in person.
And Dr. David MacRae, who specializes in geriatric care, doesn't think there should be extra testing.
"Mostly, with an older person you get concerned about the cognition," said MacRae.
MacRae says family members should watch for red flags like confusion or getting lost. Someone who takes a lot of different medicines can also pose a risk.
"It doesn't have to be all or none," said MacRae. "Just because they're not safe in rush hour doesn't mean they should never drive again."
Many states do require additional testing for seniors. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, Illinois requires a road test at 75. At age 87, seniors have to start renewing their license every year. To see how other states compare, click here.
AAA found driver's in their 70s get into about the same amount of crashes as those in their 30's, and driver's in their 80s have lower crash rates than those in their early 20s.
"When you're 30 it's easy just to say when you're over 65 everybody ought to take a test," said MacRae. "I've got several 80 year olds who run marathons, and I've got some 65 year olds who have some serious problems. It's not an age thing. It's a condition thing."
UAB's Medical School does have a Driving Assessment Clinic. It not only offers medical assessment but also provides rehabilitation services for people with medical conditions that may affect their driving. Conditions include vision problems, dementia, and stroke. MacRae says he has referred patients to the clinic. To learn more about it, click here.
To learn how seniors can earn discounts on their car insurance click here.