New driving age rules are set

Published 7:51 pm Friday, December 26, 2014

New state laws for older drivers going into effect Jan. 1 include lowering the age for mandatory in-person license renewals to 75 from 80.

Drivers 75 and older will no longer be able to renew their driver’s license electronically or by mail.

Those drivers will also have to renew their license every five years, instead of the previous eight years.

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At least one older Suffolk driver, Andy Damiani, 93, supports the new rules. “I don’t have any problem with it” Damiani said.

“I’m for safe driving, and I’m for safe people on the road. If that helps, I’m for it.”

The statutory changes will require older drivers to visit their local Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles office more frequently. To renew their license, drivers 75 and older must also pass the department’s vision requirements or present a vision statement, 90 days old or less, from an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

“Senior drivers favor tougher driving laws and an overwhelming majority support greater scrutiny in the license-renewal process for themselves and their peers,” according to Georjeane Blumling, vice president of public affairs for AAA Tidewater Virginia. According to AAA, also as a result of the legislation passed this year for older drivers, judges will have increased power to dismiss guilty findings in District Court for traffic misdemeanors, traffic infractions or other traffic violations in return for the successful completion traffic school or enrollment in a crash-prevention course for older drivers or a course to improve driving.

The number of Virginia licensed drivers 65 or older numbered 817,339 in the 2010 Census. According to AAA, about 16.1 percent of licensed drivers in Virginia will be subject to the new laws.

Research by the AAA Foundation found more than seven out of 10 drivers age 65 and older favor policies requiring drivers age 75 and older to renew their license in person, and also support requiring seniors to pass a medical screening to keep their license.

Nearly 80 percent of drivers over age 75 favor such medical screenings for their cohort, and 79 percent of drivers in this age group support in-person renewals, according to the foundation.