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SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2007
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Most readers say retest older drivers

By Steve Stewart
steve@decaturdaily.com 340-2444

Should people 70 or older be retested before they can renew their driver licenses?

Three in five respondents to an online poll believe so.

Of 309 people voting in the poll at www.decaturdaily.com, 188 (60.8 percent) said yes and 121 said no. The two-day, unscientific poll ended Friday.

"Every driver should be retested periodically, maybe every eight years or after an accident or an arrest for anything," Bill Newton of Decatur, who voted yes, said in an
e-mail.

"I think all of us should have to retest every 10 years to keep our license," wrote Johnny Heflin of Decatur, who also voted yes.

"Why did you arbitrarily surmise the age of 70 for retesting?" asked Mike Kelley of Athens, who voted no. "Why not 60? Or 80? Or maybe even 30?

"Truth is, it's one's mental/physical condition that should be considered when deeming someone 'fit' to drive. Lately I have seen younger drivers who needed 'refocusing' and older drivers who need to 'reconsider' driving — but none needed 'retesting.' "

Gary Jenkins of Danville, who also voted no, said more training should be available to drivers of all ages, and traffic laws should be enforced more stringently.

"There are way too many drivers impaired by drugs and alcohol," Jenkins wrote. "Aggressive driving, speeding and reckless driving is obvious to anyone who drives on our roadways. I don't think we should wait for a holiday weekend or 'Click It or Ticket' to address these issues.

"At the same time, automakers are turning out more and more high-performance vehicles. It seems to me the roadways are going to be more dangerous than ever in the future, but not because of older drivers."

'Reaction time'

Mack Daniel of Montgomery, another "no" voter, suggested "some kind of road test to determine ability to get around and reaction time" — but not just for 70-year-olds.

"I believe everyone should have to take the test every so often because some people become that hazard on the highway a long time before they reach 70," he said.

"Let's face it: Under certain driving and highway situations, slowness can be just as much of a hazard as excessive speed. If you cannot or do not move with the normal flow of traffic, you should have enough concern about self and others to remove yourself or be removed from the traffic flow."

A five-fatality car crash in Newbern on Feb. 4, involving a 73-year-old driver, raised questions about when older people should stop driving.

But David Brown, director of development for the CARE Research and Development Lab at The University of Alabama, said older drivers generally cause fewer traffic accidents than any other age group. He said drivers between 69 and 80 run a distant second to those 16 to 20 in the number of wrecks.

"Above age 69, they'll have more problems associated with impairment," he said.

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