Neil Schuster: Drive as long as it is safely possible...

By Neil Schuster, president and CEO, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA)
Over the last 10 years the press has made much ado regarding the question, "How old is too old to drive?" Fortunately, after much debate and discussion, most highway safety advocates and medical professionals agree that age should not be the critical factor in determining someone's physical and cognitive fitness to drive.
I agree. And with so few transportation alternatives available today, our best plan of action should be to implement the types of policies, practices and licensing procedures at the state level that help people continue driving for as long as it is safely possible.
To that end, today, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS) released some key objectives and policies that could help safely lengthen everyone's time behind the wheel as well as better identify at-risk drivers. And it gives me great pleasure to say, "State motor vehicle agencies (DMVs) are already implementing, or exploring how to implement, many of the AAAFTS recommendations!"
But even though your DMV is already on the case where many of the AAAFTS recommendations are concerned, not all of the objectives can be easily implemented, especially given state budget constraints and competing state and federal priorities.
Here's what I mean.
One of the recommendations suggests that states should require an in-person examination at each renewal cycle. In theory, it is a good safety practice to periodically retest drivers of all ages, but is it necessary at every renewal and how realistic is it in today's budget-strapped environment?
State DMVs lack funding to employee the additional personnel needed to carry out this task. Given limited resources, if state DMVs did attempt retest every licensee at every renewal, you would likely be waiting in line for hours to renew your own license because of the additional volume of people being reexamined.
This isn't a bad idea. But it presents a challenge to the DMV. Again, given limited resources, should DMV focus on retesting every license holder at every renewal, or invest scarce dollars in other programs, whether graduated licenses for teen drivers or, greater education and enforcement of repeat impaired drivers, or other programs that might yield a better safety payoff?
So the question becomes, not "how old is too old," but "where are limited dollars best employed in the battle to improve road safety?"
Founded in 1933, AAMVA is a non-profit voluntary educational association representing the chief motor vehicle administrators and law enforcement officials in the U.S. and Canada. AAMVA promotes uniformity among its members by developing best practices in driver's licensing and ID credentialing, vehicle tilting and registration and law enforcement, among others.

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