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Tennessee considers tightening laws for elderly drivers

Driving is a symbol of freedom and independence for many people, young and old. Cars can allow us to live our lives, helping us to accomplish the things we need to do from day to day. Yet as drivers begin to age, the risk they pose to themselves and other drivers is likely to increase. The fear is that elderly drivers may serve as a catalyst for dangerous car accidents, which is why Tennessee lawmakers are thinking about adding regulations for drivers over a certain age.

Estimates suggest that by 2030 nearly 20 percent of drivers on U.S. roads will be 65-years-of-age or older. An increasing number of older drivers on roads, coupled with the fact that people are living and driving for a longer period of time, has legislators and highway safety officials concerned about the dangers that this might pose for everyone on the road.

One state representative, who is also a former police sheriff, is exploring the possibility of introducing a bill to regulate how licensing and testing procedures would change for older Tennessee drivers. He says the details of his plan are not yet solidified.

Tennessee is currently one of the least strict states for certifying older motorists to drive.

Opponents of changes to Tennessee driving regulations suggest that older drivers will give up driving on their own when they determine they are no longer suited to drive. However, some Tennessee families dealing with elderly family members on the roads say convincing their loved ones to stop or limit their driving is a very difficult task.

A former state health department official has responded to critics of suggested changes by asserting that this is all "about safety."

As drivers, we have the right to safety on the road and the responsibility to determine if our driving habits will ensure the safety of fellow drivers and any passengers. In some cases, we cannot expect a driver to be the best judge of whether or not they can safely operate a car. We must have the ability to protect ourselves against driver negligence. Giving up the privilege to drive is a very complex decision to make. Regardless, safety should always be the top priority for motorists and state transportation officials.

Source: The Tennessean, "Older Tennessee drivers may encounter tougher laws," Brandon Gee, Jan. 17, 2012

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