For most of us, it likely that we cannot see a day, too soon, that will spell an end to our driving a car to get around. Even for those in there 50s and 60s, we can imagine another couple decades of “automotive independence” ahead of us. But despite eternal optimism, some individuals who are driving today may find themselves with a challenge before long; that challenge may come in the form of a family member sitting down and talking frankly about giving up one’s driver’s license voluntarily.
This discussion is not hypothetical, it happens every day to many people across this country who have reached the point of being unable, either physically or mentally, to control a motor vehicle safely — at least in the eyes of their family; others, who either do not have caring family member living nearby, or through some type of serious traffic mishap, may be forced by the state to relinquish their driver’s license.
For many drivers, it must be said that losing one’s license due to incapacity may be one of the more difficult chapters in the aging process. The term between Maryland driver’s license renewals is what one might call a sweet spot — a time when, as long as we cause no serious car accidents or receive too many citations for traffic infractions — each of us can relax and not worry about being retested until our next operator’s license renewal.
As Maryland personal injury attorneys, we understand that as people get older, a percentage of that group begins to experience problems with memory and a gradual reduction in physical abilities. Many of the mental and physical skills necessary to qualify for a driver’s license can certainly be lost to old age. If this happens close to an upcoming renewal date, the State can evaluate the individual for proper understanding of traffic laws; but this is only in a perfect world.
For many drivers who are getting up there in years, their abilities may slide quickly and too soon for a driver’s license test or other official evaluation to perhaps keep a person of questionable abilities from getting a license. Certainly, increasing a driver’s license renewal term is not the best approach when considering elderly drivers.
We were recently reminded of this issue when reading a news article that discussed one family’s opposition to a proposed increase in Maryland’s driver’s license renewal period — from five years to eight. According to news reports, the opposition came from the family who lost a son to a car-bicycle accident in 2011. The driver of the car — an 83-year-old woman — was allowed to keep her operators license for several months following the accident.
At the time of the crash, in February 2011, Johns Hopkins University student Nathan Krasnopoler was hit by the woman’s vehicle as she attempted a right turn, but instead of turning onto a true public street, she ended up going down a bike path, on which Krasnopoler was riding. The woman’s car hit the bicyclist, who was severely injured in the subsequent collision; sadly, he died in the hospital later in August.
According to recent news articles, the man’s mother and his brother were trying to convince the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to reject a bill (S.B. 111) that would reportedly allow drivers to retain their driver’s license for eight versus ten years. Worried that the bill would make Maryland roads more dangerous, Krasnopoler’s relatives said that passing of the potential legislation would only go toward reducing safety on our streets.
Stating that eight years is too long a period for those over 40-years-old to hold a driver’s license without some kind of regular testing, the family reportedly wanted any legislation to require mandatory competency testing for drivers. At the time of the article, competency testing was used by the Motor Vehicle Administration only at the request of a driver or his or her family. The object of mandatory testing would be to more readily determine if a driver’s skills have deteriorated to the point of making it difficult for that person to safely operate a motor vehicle on public roads.
The family was also reportedly seeking additional legislation that would impose up to eight points on the license of any driver who failed to notify authorities if they became involved in a car or truck accident leading to the serious injury or death of an individual.
Mother of accident victim opposes license renewal bill, WBAL.com, February 4, 2012
Family Of Hopkins Student Hit By Car Speaks Out On License Extension, WBAL.com, February 02, 2012