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How Does California Law Address the Risks Associated with Elderly Drivers?


A serious accident recently occurred involving a 100-year-old driver named Preston Carter. Carter was driving in South Los Angeles when he backed his vehicle up, striking nine children and two adults who were crossing the street after school had let out for the day, reported the Los Angeles Times.

“The accident serves as an important reminder to ensure that seniors are still capable of driving safely,” explained California car accident attorney James Ballidis.

At the time of the accident, Carter had a valid drivers license with no record of traffic violations. Carter turned 101 on the 5th of September, and his license is valid until 2013. The only restriction on his driver’s license is a mandate that he wear corrective lenses.

Elderly drivers may be especially susceptible to becoming involved in an accident for many different reasons. Declining vision, slow response times, confusion, memory problems and other physical and mental issues all contribute to making certain elderly drivers a serious danger on the road.

How The Law Prevents Accidents

Recognizing the potential dangers presented by elderly drivers, California has imposed strict legal requirements designed to curb the risk of older and incapable drivers behind the wheel.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, drivers ages 70 and older are required to renew their drivers license at the DMV in person, unlike those under age 70 who have clean driving records. Younger individuals can opt for two automatic renewals of their license every five years without having to come to the DMV for a thumb print, photo and vision test. Those over 70, on the other hand, must report in person every five years when their license expires. They must, at this time, complete both a vision test and a written test.

The DMV further explains that seniors may be asked to take a driving test if they fail the vision test or do not meet the DMV’s vision requirements. Drivers who have been referred from a Driver Safety Office due to a lack of driving skills will also be asked to take a drivers test. Finally, law enforcement, a physician, a relative or other concerned party may contact the DMV to report potential problems with a senior’s driving ability, triggering the requirement that the senior complete a driving test.

When a senior is required to take a supplemental driving test, he or she is assessed on whether he or she can drive the motor vehicle safely; whether he or she has proper safe-driving habits; whether the driver is able to follow traffic laws; and whether the driver is able to compensate for physical conditions that impact safe driving such as early-stage dementia, limb loss or poor vision.

Depending on the results of the vision or driving test, various restrictions may be imposed on a senior’s license. The most common restriction is related to vision, but other restrictions may also be imposed and in some cases, a senior’s license may be taken away if he or she is no longer able to drive safely.

Additional information on this and other transportation safety subjects is available to the public free of charge through our office’s Preferred Friends and Clients Program.

If you would like to request a free book or article, or to speak with a California car accident attorney, feel free to call 866-981-5596.

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