Law would require seniors to take driving test |

Law would require seniors to take driving test

Joyce Scozzafava knew her husband’s driving ability was deteriorating, but it was a fact he wasn’t ready to admit. She took matters into her own hands – she snitched.

“He couldn’t drive worth a darn and it was dangerous. I finally snitched to the doctor,” she said.

At 66, Joyce is years away from being effected by a proposed California law. The Senate bill authored by Sen. Tom Hayden, D-Los Angeles, would require on-the-road testing for residents over 75 seeking driver’s license renewal. A discussion on the measure brought forth varied opinions among the participants in Monday’s 55-Alive driving class at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center. Some, like Scozzafava, said they also knew of elderly drivers who were borderline on physical ability and agreed that testing might not be a bad thing. Others were vehemently opposed to the idea and labeled the bill as age discrimination.

“It’s a controlling thing,” said class instructor and professional driver Del Knight. “I think anyone here would agree that people with real physical problems like poor vision or seizures should have their driving restricted, but not because I’m 75. I don’t like the set age. And the Department of Motor Vehicles already has ways to test physical abilities.”

Knight, who is in his early 70s, became a professional driver after he retired from teaching in 1982. He now works for Caesars Tahoe as a shuttle and limousine driver.

John Perry said he didn’t like the arbitrary nature of the bill, but didn’t shy away from proving his ability to operate a vehicle.

“If taking a test is going to have a major effect, you probably should take the test,” Perry said.

Seymour Manoff, another senior, said he wouldn’t mind the extra requirements if teens and young adults faced the same restrictions.

“I’ll do it as soon as the kids are tested,” he stated.

With the introduction of Teen Driver Safety Act, during last year’s legislative session, teens’ driving privileges were restricted. But Sen. Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, who authored the teen act said he doesn’t feel this new bill compares. Leslie voted against the bill, but it still passed the Senate last week by a narrow margin and went on to the Assembly.

“In this district restricting seniors ability to drive would present a grave hardship to many people,” said Leslie’s press secretary Dave Butler on the Senator’s reasons for voting against the legislation. “Chronological age is a concern for young drivers because as a function of their age they are inexperienced drivers. Just because somebody is older does not mean they are a bad driver. This bill is a one size fits all solution, and the need has not been proven sufficiently.”

Under the measure SB335 at age 75 drivers would have to take a vision, written, and road test every four years. At age 80, tests would be required every three years; at age 86, it would drop to two years. And after 90 the testing would be required annually. The bill also creates a minimum vision standard for all ages. Anyone whose best corrected vision is 20/200 or worse in their better eye would be ineligible for license renewal.

To help seniors with the increased testing, the Department of Motor Vehicles would have to develop a new program to assist seniors in passing tests and employees would have to undergo sensitivity training. The DMV would also have to establish a task force to work on finding funding for other sources of transportation for seniors who have lost their licenses. The DMV estimated that the annual cost of the additional testing required by the measure would be about $6 to $9 million.

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