Author: David M. Williams, Jr., Fredericksburg Personal Injury Attorney
A transportation related bill that sought to impose new and stricter driver’s license renewal standards on Virginia’s “mature” population, failed in the Virginia State Senate on January 29, 2014.
Current law requires a Virginia driver who is 80 years of age or older at the time their license expires to renew their license in person at a local Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) office, pass a vision test and, in certain situations, take and pass a written test about the rules of the road. Senate Bill 180, introduced by Sen. Jeffrey L. McWaters (Republican – Virginia Beach), would have made the following changes to the renewal process for senior drivers in Virginia:
- lowered the age at which drivers are required to appear before the DMV for renewal from 80 to 75
- licenses issued to persons 75 or older would be valid for no more than 5 years (as opposed to the current 8 year requirement)
- provided a “mature driver vehicle crash prevention course” that judges could send older drivers following a traffic related court appearance
- allowed individuals who report poor driving by the elderly to the DMV to remain anonymous (currently only relatives of the person or a treating medical professional can report and remain anonymous)
The bill was the result of a year-long study by the Virginia DMV to determine if the licensing renewal procedures for older citizens should be amended. The DMV committee who studied the issue recommend many of the provisions contained in SB 180. Despite the recommendations from the DMV, the bill failed by the closest possible margin, 19 votes for versus 19 votes against , with Lt. Governor Ralph Northam (Democrat) casting the deciding vote in its defeat. The debate on the bill was spirited with Sen. Dick Saslaw (Democrat – Fairfax), who is 73 years old, declaring, “All you whippersnappers in here who vote for this bill, your time is coming!” Even the bill’s propoent Senator McWaters’ 85 year old mother opposed its passage.
A House version of the bill has faced much less opposition. House Bill 771, introduced by Timothy D. Hugo (Republican – Fairfax / Prince William) passed the House with a vote of 90-Yes, 7-Nay on January 31, 2014. It faces an uncertain future in the Senate who referred the matter to the Committee on Transportation.
Virginia is not alone in having specific licensing requirements for older drivers. 33 states and the District of Columbia have special provisions for “mature” drivers including accelerated renewal frequency, restrictions of online renewals, and vision / road tests. For a state-by-state listing of specific provisions, check out the Governor’s Highway Safety Association website at http://www.ghsa.org .
About the Author: Attorney David Williams focuses his legal career almost exclusively on personal injury law, wrongful death and products liability cases. He has successfully argued cases before the Virginia Supreme Court. He works in the Garrisonville, Virginia office of the personal injury law firm of Allen & Allen and serves clients across Northern Virginia and Central Virginia.
 See Virginia Code § 46.2-330 available online at: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-330 .