9 replies on “It’s time to test drivers 80+.”

  1. Thanks for speaking out, Nancy! I agree that we should assure that people stop driving when they lose the necessary skills.

    I am in fact a co-sponsor of a bill, filed in January, House 2241, which would allow physicians to report to the Registry persons whom they deemed unfit to drive. It creates a mechanism for handling those cases and also protects physicians for liability related to reporting. This is an bill which came close to passing in last year’s session. Unfortunately, action this year will be too late to save this weekend’s victim, but I think we have a very good chance of passing something meaningful this year. The lead sponsor of House 2241 is representative Kay Kahnn and, according to to Transportation Committee staff, there are similar bills pending.

    I will continue to push for progress on this issue in this session.

    Thanks again for speaking out, Nancy!

    1. For those interested in this issue here is a news item re House 2241:

      BOSTON, MA – State Representative Kay Khan will hold a press conference to announce the favorable release of her legislation, H. 2241 An Act Relative to Impaired Drivers from the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. The release of this legislation comes amidst numerous accidents throughout the Commonwealth, particularly related to a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely and the necessary evaluation process to do so.

      WHAT: Press conference announcing the favorable release of H.2241, An Act Relative to Impaired Drivers from the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

      WHO: Representative Kay Khan, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities; Representative Michael Costello, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security; Senator Patricia Jehlen, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs.

      WHEN: Thursday, 25 June, 2009, at 10:00 a.m.

      WHERE: Massachusetts State House, Room 222

  2. Will,

    To be clear then, you are not in favor of mandatory tests for all drivers over a certain age?

    Please clarify.

    Thank you,
    John from Arlington

    1. Thanks, John. I can’t give a completely clear answer yet.

      Honestly, I’m not sure exactly what mechanism I favor. I do think that people of any age can become disabled to the point where they are not able to safely drive. I’m not sure that simply testing everyone over some magic cut-off age is cost-effective. Physician reporting might be the most cost-effective approach, but only if do actually report. I’d like to see some more data and hear some testimony on the issue before finalizing a recommended approach.

      There are several bills pending and there is momentum to take action. I’m expecting the relevant legislative committee to sort through the issues and make a recommendation to the full house.

      Thanks for speaking out in this forum!

  3. Will,

    I appreciate your response (and your returning my phone call).

    There is a saying which holds true for most preventative actions, “a stitch in time saves nine”. About 5% of the population is over 75 years (about 300,000 in Massachusetts). Not all of them still drive, and on a once per five year testing basis, you might only expect about 50,000 drivers tests for elderly who wish to retain their license. At a cost of $100 per test (a reasonable guess), you would have a cost of about $5 million.

    Now consider the medical bills from a Minivan running into a crowd of 7 people. You could easily ring up medical costs approaching $5 million in that accident alone. Multiply those savings across dozens or hundreds of prevented accidents. I think the numbers will clearly support testing.

    Furthermore, not all health safety legislation is or should be based on cost-effectiveness. People have a right to health and safety assuming resources exist. You can’t tell me the state doesn’t have the resources available to run an extra 50,000 driver tests per year.

    Peoples lives are being devastated by elderly drivers that should not be licensed. Let’s do what is right here. Let’s do everything possible to weed out unsafe drivers.

    Thank you,
    John from Arlington

  4. I’m closely following S.1929 which would test driver over the age of 85 every 5 years. This seems to me a practical solution, indeed a conservative approach beginning as late as age 85. The groundswell of citizen support is growing, even among us boomers who will soon face limitations that will affect our driving privileges ourselves.

    I speak as a daughter who had to take away her suburban mother’s keys when Alzheimer’s became a factor; I also became her driver for shopping, recreation, medical appointments and so on. More recently, I’ve been chauffeuring an elderly neighbor in her 80s who lives alone with no family to help her. I have a clear awareness of the impact on elders as well as those they depend on. But also aware of the limitations that aging can present, I strongly support this measure.

    I had understood that doctors already had the ability to contact the Registry with concerns. Is that not true?

  5. Another child died yesterday on a crosswalk in Halifax. Will, very pointedly, H. 2241 is not enough, although I’m interested to know where it stands. Testing needs to start at 75. I can’t emphasize how strongly I feel about this. It will be reflected in my vote next time we elect a representative.

    1. Duly noted. I continue to be supportive of action on this issue and I’m hopeful that we’ll see movement on some combination of the pending bills to address this.

      What is your perspective on the recent data (see the Globe here or here) suggesting elderly drivers are lower risk than most? I feel that people — elderly or otherwise — who are not competent to drive should not drive. But I’m not sure it is so easy to know who we should take off the road. There are a lot of people who pose a threat at all ages.

      I’d also be interested in whether you have been in touch with the Governor’s office. The administration’s (Registrar’s) recent comments urging a go slow approach will tend to reduce the urgency for action.

      I am hopeful that we will take action and that our actions will be fair and responsible and conscious of the risks to public safety.

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