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Once you pass your driving test, should you keep it for life? Or can the government revoke your license if your vision and reaction time deteriorate too much for safety? Many governments struggle with this dilemma. But Germany just made its anti-testing position clear.

In the United States, senior citizens never need to retake their driving tests. Much of that test is a written test. Once you’ve learned the rules of the road, what are the chances you’ll “unlearn” them? In addition, the most dangerous drivers continue to be those under 21.

That said, I’ve come close to being struck by older drivers several times. In some cases they said they simply didn’t see me. In other cases they did, but reacted very slowly. So I can understand why many countries in Europe require older drivers regularly retake the skills portion of the driving test.

An older woman gives a thumbs-up signal from the driver's seat of her car.
Older driver | warrengoldswain via iStockPhoto

Peter Mecking is a 70-year-old driver in Cologne. He admits, “There does come a point when you should stop driving, due to diminishing mental and physical performance…And if someone told me I should stop driving, I would accept that, too. Because I would be putting myself and others in danger on the road.”

This is why he volunteers for regular “driving fitness checks” where an instructor rides shotgun for 45 minutes. Fourteen EU countries require health checks for older drivers. But because Germany doesn’t require such checks, a German citizen of any age can drive into those countries. So the EU suggested a standard law across all its member countries. Germany’s response was decisive:

“We cannot put state regulations in place of people’s personal responsibility…And we cannot complain about bureaucratic hurdles, while at the same time creating new, unnecessary bureaucracy.”

Wolker Wissing, German transport minister

It looks like Germany won’t be voluntarily implementing a skill test for its older drivers. We’ll have to wait and see if the rest of the Union insists. What do you think? Let me know in the poll below:

Next, read about how fatality rates are falling among young drivers, or see CBS’ look into older drivers in the video below: