The state of Maine is facing a situation which is causing some safety officials to question when or if an elderly person should be ready to relinquish their driving license.

Unfortunately, the question of whether or not to turn over the privilege of driving to someone else is not an easy one to answer, especially when you consider the utter lack of any sort of reasonable public transportation in the United States. How does someone without a driver’s license get to the supermarket, a doctor’s appointment or even to a visit with friends and family?

In Maine a full 20 percent of all drivers are considered senior citizens. As a group those individuals are responsible for more than 20 percent of all fatal crashes in the state. Maine has a median population age of 42, meaning the entire state is quickly approaching retirement age.

Among other steps the state is taking to ensure the safety of everyone on the roads in Maine, officials are regularly checking on the safety of all drivers and trying to make decisions which will hurt the least.

Recognizing the risks of continuing to drive when vision, cognitive reasoning or reaction time has declined, many drivers give up their licenses or scale back their driving to daytime hours and/or familiar roads.

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles also increases its scrutiny of drivers after age 65, requiring license renewal every four years instead of six. Vision tests are required for every renewal after a person turns 62, said Patty Morneau, head of the bureau’s licensing division.

Another check on deteriorating driving skills is called adverse driving reports. Police submit them to the bureau when they encounter a driver whose driving abilities appear questionable because of a crash or violation.

Adverse driving reports often require a driver’s physician to complete a Functional Ability Profile, listing the physical, mental or emotional conditions that may affect the person’s ability to drive.

Ultimately, the licensing division’s medical advisory board determines what restrictions should be imposed on a driver’s license, ranging from requiring additional testing to restricting when a person can drive to revoking driving privileges.

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