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Changes for older drivers nixed

RICHMOND—Perhaps Sen. Jeff McWaters, R–Virginia Beach, shouldn’t have been surprised the Senate voted down his “mature driver” bill.

Even his 85-year-old mother opposed it, McWaters said.

Had it passed, McWaters’ mother—and all drivers older than 75—would have to be re-tested by the Department of Motor Vehicles every five years, rather than the current eight. The bill also would have required anyone over age 75—rather than 80, the current law—to appear in person at the DMV to renew their license. It allowed mature drivers to go to driver improvement classes specifically for older drivers, and it also would have allowed people who report poor driving by elderly drivers to the DMV to stay anonymous. Currently only relatives of the person or a medical professional who is treating him or her can report such a driver and remain anonymous.

McWaters, who is 57, said the bill was the result of a study that the Senate itself asked the DMV to do. The bill was a recommendation of that study, and was backed by the AARP, among a variety of other groups.

“The only person that was really against the bill was my mom,” McWaters said.

But that was before he encountered 19 other senators who voted against his bill. Some said their constituents would be up in arms over it.

“This bill is likely to be a looming cloud over our mature population in the state,” said Sen. Dick Black, R–Loudoun, who is 69. “I think it would be something that constantly is a worry to them. Every time we take away the right of mobility from senior citizens, what we’re doing is placing the obligation on the state of Virginia to move them around. You’re going to instill a great deal of fear among your constituents.”

And others took it perhaps a bit more personally.

“All you whippersnappers in here who vote for this bill, your time is coming,” said Sen. Dick Saslaw, D–Fairfax, who is 73.

The final vote on McWaters’ bill was 19–19, with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam casting the tie-breaking no vote.

A House version of the bill has had a much easier time. It passed through committee without a single no vote, and is currently on the calendar for a full House vote this week.

Chelyen Davis: 804/343-2245

cdavis@freelancestar.com

 

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