A state council studying the effects of
aging on driving says Florida should promote a
program to report motorists who should not be driving.
By Chuck McGinnes
Palm Beach Post
Florida should do more to promote a program that allows police,
doctors and the public to report at-risk drivers, a committee
studying the problem said in its initial report.
The group also recommends that senior citizens who pass a
voluntary driving skills test receive a discount on their
car insurance to cover the cost of the screening.
The two suggestions were among 31 included in the report,
''The Effects of Aging on Driving Ability,'' that the Florida
At-Risk Driving Council presented to state lawmakers last
The 28-member council was created last October under a new
law that requires drivers older than 79 to pass a vision test
before renewing their license.
''It's just an indication of the complexity of the issue
we're dealing with,'' said Lyn Bodiford, the council's vice
chairman and AARP's state affairs coordinator. ``We've only
Last year, 7,137 of the at-risk drivers reported to the state
Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles were retested
for vision or driving skills or required to undergo a full
medical evaluation. In some cases, driving privileges were
Others were restricted from driving at night or told to get
new equipment, such as additional side mirrors or hand controls,
if they wanted to continue driving.
Records relating to medical referrals are exempt from disclosure
under the state's public records law. Forms to report at-risk
drivers are available at driver license offices and on the
But there is no widespread advertising campaign.
''The problem has been a lot of people don't know about it,''
spokesman Robert Sanchez said.
A 45-day test project was conducted last year in the Jacksonville
area to determine if increased publicity would result in more
reports of at-risk drivers. State officials met with medical
groups and law enforcement agencies to explain the process.
Their findings are still being compiled.
''One of our highest priorities should be making sure law
enforcement officers can identify someone who is an at-risk
driver,'' Bodiford said. ``I think clearly that doesn't happen
much of the time. It's an opportunity lost.''
Drivers can get a detailed assessment of their driving skills
at Florida Atlantic University's Senior Safety Resource Center.
The center, which opened four months ago, tests only a handful
of people a week because word about the service is still getting
out in the community, said Ruth Tappen, the center's director
and a member of the At-Risk Driving Council.
Some people cancel their appointments after learning Medicare
will not cover the $275 cost of the screening, Tappen said.
The FAU center sees mostly drivers with memory disorders,
such as Alzheimer's disease.
Statistics show that about 20 percent of Florida's 242,500
drivers who are 85 and older have a mild or moderate form
''I've heard it over and over again at the Alzheimer summit
that the rest of the nation will look at Florida on how to
handle this issue,'' Tappen said.