Bill proposes changing in-person renewal for older drivers in Virginia

Bill proposes changing in-person renewal for older drivers in Virginia

Legislation based on a DMV study would drop the in-person renewal age from 80 to 75 and shorten renewal period

January 13, 2014|By Cathy Grimes

Among the slew of transportation-related legislation the General Assembly will consider this session is a bill that would affect drivers ages 75 and older.

Senate Bill 180, sponsored by Sen. Jeff McWaters, R-Virginia Beach and submitted on Jan. 8, proposes lowering the age from 80 to 75 at which Virginia drivers must renew their licenses in person. Renewal would require a vision test.

McWaters’ proposed legislation is based on a 2013 Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) study to determine if the Commonwealth should amend its licensing renewal procedures for older citizens.

It recommended lowering the in-person renewal age from 80 to 75 and shortening the period for drivers 75 and older from eight to five years. That recommendation was folded into McWaters’ bill. He also adopted the study’s recommendation for a mature driver crash prevention course that could be offered to drivers, or required by the courts.

In a letter to DMV Commissioner Rick Holcomb, AARP Associate State Director David DeBiasi said the organization supported “effective, evidence-based assessment models to identify at-risk drivers.” DeBiasi also recommended “individuals who exhibit functional impairments be given a road test tailored to identify impediments to safe driving.” But DeBiasi said such recommendations should be aimed at all drivers, not just those 75 and older. He said AARP has found that in-person license renewal has helped identify at-risk drivers.

But lowering the age of in-person renewal may not be a bad idea, said William Massey, CEO of the Peninsula Agency on Aging.

“In all honesty, I think 75 may be a reasonable age to require a person to appear and take a vision test,” said Massey, who is 71. “I don’t think it is a bad thing.”

But he noted that driver’s licenses often are considered a part of a person’s independence, so people might be concerned about the possibility of not having them renewed. Massey said age is not the only factor to consider when gauging a person’s ability to drive, since many older drivers have fine vision.

The DMV study, conducted by Virginia Tech and released last November, was requested by De. Joe May and Sen. Stephen Newman, chairs of the House and Senate transportation committees. It noted that more than 16 percent of all licensed drivers in Virginia are 65 and older or “mature drivers.” That total is expected to increase to almost 20 percent by 2030. The study team reviewed crash data in Virginia for 2012, which showed that drivers 65 and older were involved in fewer crashes than younger drivers. Drivers between the ages of 15 and 64 were involved in 187,794 crashes, compared to 17,916 for mature drivers. But the study stated, “when drivers are involved in crashes, they have an increasing rate of being at fault.” The data also showed older drivers had the highest rate of injuries and fatalities of all licensed drivers. The study noted that national studies show drivers who are 70 or over have more crashes than younger drivers when the number of miles they drive is taken into consideration.

The study team also looked at medical conditions associated with older people, especially Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

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