Our loved ones don't always realize when it's time to hang up the keys.

On February 1, 2012, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard Senate Bill 111, an administrative bill for the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), which proposes that Maryland Drivers Licenses and Identification Cards move from a five-year renewal cycle to an eight-year renewal cycle.

This hearing quickly turned from a simple housekeeping matter for the MVA to a debate on the merits of testing elderly drivers for cognitive ability.

The family of Nathan Krasnopoler, a Johns Hopkins student who was killed by an 83-year old motorist last year while riding his bicycle, appeared at the hearing to share their story and to oppose the proposed eight-year renewal period.

Nathan’s mother, Susan Cohen, requested an amendment to the bill requiring elderly drivers be tested by the MVA for cognitive function every other time their license is renewed. While sympathetic to Nathan’s story, members of the committee noted that SB 111 was not the perfect match for such an amendment. However, if it finds a sponsor, this issue of cognitive testing for older drivers may make its way back in front of the committee in its own bill.

Currently, Maryland requires all drivers above the age of 40 to submit verification of a current eye exam. In addition, those above the age of 70 who are receiving a drivers license for the first time must have a certification of health from a physician.

In response to follow-up questioning from the committee, the MVA confirmed that once a driver reaches age 70, they would revert to a five-year renewal cycle.

Not exactly the older drivers we were looking for.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, many states, including our neighbors in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware, do not require an accelerated renewal period or additional license renewal provisions for older drivers. Virginia only requires vision testing after age 80.

Maryland law is specific in listing the conditions that must exist in order for the MVA to require driver reexamination by a Medical Board. Age alone is not one of these criteria.

Often, an older driver may not realize their driving skills have diminished until it’s too late. When you feel it may be time to address this difficult situation with someone you know, the MVA has a great resource for families and friends of elderly drivers.

It’s never easy to take freedom and mobility away from a loved one. But, sometimes it’s safest for them, and for those they might encounter on our roads.

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