Taking the Wheel

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The ability to drive a car is a privilege many of us take for granted. Driving allows us to be independent and in control. We can go where we want, when we want, without being dependent on others, whether it be our family or friends, the cab driver, or mass transit operators. Remember that sense of freedom upon obtaining that first driver’s license? WOW, did we feel grown up!

Imagine what it would be like to lose that privilege. This is a reality many senior citizens face. Although drivers age 16 to 25 are on the high end of the accident range, studies show that drivers over the age of 75 are in incidents at comparable rates. Often times an accident, even if it’s a non-injury fender bender, will alert the individual that maybe he or she should no longer be driving. But if the individual does not recognize their potential danger on the road, what can be done to ensure their safety and the safety of others?

Kansas

In Kansas drivers between the age of 21 and 64 years of age receive a license that is valid for 6 years. Drivers who are 65 and older must renew their license every 4 years. In addition to the vision test, unlike those under 65, those 65 and older must pass an open book examination relating to traffic signals and laws.

Family members, medical professionals, law enforcement officers and concerned citizens, who believe an individual poses a risk, can request a Driver Evaluation be made by the Kansas Department of Revenue, Division of Vehicles, Medical/Vision Unit. However, there is no duty to make such a report. Although the report cannot be made anonymously, the reporting individual’s name is confidential, unless required by a court. If a reevaluation is warranted, a DMV approved officer will conduct an examination which consists of an interview and may also include a vision test, a written test and/or driving test.

Following the examination, the officer will determine whether any action should be taken, such as restrictions, suspension or revocation. Should the individual continue to drive on a cancelled, suspended or revoked license, such person shall be guilty of a class B nonperson misdemeanor which carries a sentence of at least 5 days’ imprisonment and a $100 fine and upon a second conviction shall not be eligible for parole until serving 5 days’ imprisonment.

Missouri

In Missouri drivers between the ages of 21 and 69 years of age receive a license that expires every 6 years. Those 70 and older must renew their license every 3 years. A road sign recognition test and vision test is required for drivers of all ages.

Missouri has a Driver Condition Report that is similar to the Driver Evaluation Request in Kansas. Like Kansas, there is no mandatory reporting and the reporting party is kept confidential. Violating a revoked or suspended license is a misdemeanor, with the first violation resulting in a fine not to exceed $300. A second violation could result in a jail term not to exceed one year and/or a fine not to exceed $1,000.

Suspension and revocation of one’s driver’s license can be devastating to an individual who feels they are losing control of their life. If there is concern, but it has not reached the level of accidents, there are a few actions that should be taken at this time. Although it is a delicate discussion, the concerns should be discussed with the driver. Discourage them from driving at night, during rush hour or when school is letting out for the day. Some senior organizations and hospitals offer driver safety programs that may help older persons become better drivers. These programs may also assess their abilities and make recommendations.

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