Rules of the Road: Can a police office test an older driver's reflexes?

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDAugust 18, 2013 

Question: What is state law concerning older drivers? At what age are older drivers required to be tested for impaired eyesight or other functions such as reflexes or judgment? Can a police officer administer a test of impairment for an older driver, not for alcohol or drug impairment, but for age-related physical or mental impairment?

Can a police officer take an age-related impaired older driver off the road based on a roadside sobriety test?

Answer: All drivers are required to pass a visual acuity exam when they renew their drivers license. RCW 46.52.070 is the law that governs what an officer can do. It deals with filing a report with the Department of Licensing after a serious injury or fatal crash where the officer believes the operator that caused the crash may not be competent to drive.

Another law (RCW 46.20.305 Incompetent, unqualified driver - Reexamination - Physician's certificate - Action by department) allows DOL to require a driver reexamination, a medical authorization to drive, the ability to put restrictions on when and where a person is allowed to drive, etc.

For the last portion of your question, no, a police officer is not able to administer any type of test for age-related physical or mental impairment or to take a driver off the road for these issues. That ability is granted only to the Department of Licensing.

There are numerous resources for how to deal with senior drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (nhtsa.gov), AAA (aaa.com) and the American Medical Association (ama-assn.org), are just a few organizations that have online information on the subject.

ABOUT RULES OF THE ROAD

Rules of the Road is a regular column with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices.

Answers come from David Wright, a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now serving on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to bellinghamherald.com/traffic.

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service