By: Bill Schammert
Should drivers older than 80 be forced to take a special test? On Tuesday, the Nebraska Legislature held a hearing on just such a bill.
Introduced by Scottsbluff Sen. John Harms, simply put, LB-351 would require anyone 80 and older to take a cognitive ability test when applying for or renewing a drivers license.
"Senior citizens can experience slower reaction times, declines in vision and memory loss," Sen. Harms said in Tuesday's hearing.
The bill has caught the attention of the AARP, who issued a statement saying quote, "The AARP opposes laws or regulations that require additional testing or screening solely on the basis of age."
A former Nebraska driving instructor also spoke out against the bill, calling it prejudiced.
"All 80-year-old are no more alike than all 40-year-olds or 16-year-olds," former instructor, Jack Sample, said.
If passed, Nebraska would become the first state to require drivers of a certain age to take a cognitive ability test.
"Twenty-four percent of individuals 80-to-89 years of age have dementia," Dr. Bonnie Dobbs said. "And many of those people will be behind the wheel."
Dr. Dobbs is with the University of Alberta and spoke in favor of the bill at Tuesday's hearing.
The test is called the SIMARD MD and developers say it takes about seven minutes to complete, and about one minute to score. It can be administered by DMV officials.
"We need our short-term memory, long-term memory, selective attention, divided attention, judgement and decision making. And those are the cognitive abilities [the test] captures," Dr. Dobbs said.
LB-351 is also being backed by the Nebraska Medical Association.