Santa Paula Times

Grey power prevails over Senate bill targeting senior citizen drivers

August 24, 1999
Santa Paula News
Grey power had its way when a hotly contested bill that could sharply curtail driving privileges for senior citizens was amended to remove age requirements to instead concentrate on any risky driver. The amendment was adopted Monday by the state Assembly Transportation Committee after opponents of the original bill - including AARP and vocal senior citizens - said the bill in its original form would be discriminatory.The bill had passed in the Senate in June and was expected to garner the approval of Legislators: SB335 required all drivers over age 75 to take tests including written, vision and road before a license could be renewed within a four-year period. Age 80 would have triggered testing requirements every three years and after age 86 the interval would drop to two years. Age 90 would mean annual testing.Gov. Gray Davis signaled early on that he wasn't wholeheartedly supporting the bill as originally written by state Sen. Tom Hayden, and opposition of senior citizens, including Santa Paulans, grew.Seniors argued that the Department of Motor Vehicles would have heightened powers that could be used to strand thousands of able drivers and take away their independence. Senior lobbying groups advocated the input of physicians in the final decision on whether or not a driver is road worthy.
The new version of the bill targets those drivers that could be considered "at-risk" for a higher number of accidents and won't be confined to age guidelines. The DMV would determine those that have a higher than average tendency to be involved in or cause accidents and mandate advanced testing.Senior drivers are a nuisance to some, to others a scapegoat: when a middle-aged person is involved in an accident that leads to injury or death to another party their license is rarely revoked, whereas when a senior citizen is involved in such an incident punishment usually includes special DMV screening and the distinct possibility of losing their driver's license.