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When is it time to retire your driver’s license?

Police tape along Georgia Avenue where a 79-year-old woman drove onto the sidewalk and hit three people. (WTOP/John Aaron)

John Aaron, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Two high-profile incidents are raising awareness about seniors and driving.

Earlier this month, an 88-year-old woman wound up taking the wrong ramp onto Route 50 in Annapolis, Md., driving eastbound in the westbound lanes. Police say she clipped three cars and appeared to be disoriented. She was issued six citations and will be subject to a reevaluation of her driver’s license.

Then, this past Tuesday in the District, a 79-year-old woman drove onto the sidewalk and struck three people who were waiting for a bus along Georgia Avenue near Butternut Street. Police said the crash left one of the victims in serious condition.

Despite the renewed attention, senior driving safety has long been on the radar of groups like AAA and AARP.

“It’s a huge problem,” says Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, “How we deal with it is not something that there’s a consensus on right now.”

He says that by 2030, over a quarter of all drivers will be over age 60. While many seniors are safe drivers, they are also more likely to experience medical complications that could impair them behind the wheel.

One solution might be with the Department of Motor Vehicles. AAA recommends that drivers over the age of 75 be required to renew their licenses in person every five years, a standard that is not met in D.C., Maryland or Virginia.

AAA would also like doctors or police officers to be able to send in notices about potentially dangerous senior drivers. AAA says that in our region, only Virginia has those forms online and readily available.

Meanwhile, AARP believes the responsibility of safe driving rests with individuals and family members. AARP says “close calls,” traffic tickets and new dents and scrapes on the car are all warning signs that it’s time to stop driving or cut back.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, insurance claims begin to increase after age 65, although claim levels are still lower than those of the youngest drivers.

A 2009 analysis from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found drivers 80 years old and up were the most likely age group to be at-fault in fatal two-vehicle collisions.

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