- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

RICHMOND (AP) — Virginia’s growing elderly population now has a source to help them safely navigate state roads and decide when they should consider giving up driving.

The Census Bureau estimates that by 2025, people over age 65 will account for 18 percent, or 1.5 million, of the Virginia population, up from 11 percent in 1995.

“We have to be ready,” Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner D.B. Smit said at a press conference last week at the state Capitol.

The state’s GrandDriver program includes information on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and how they can affect driving skills; a list of common driving problems, such as changing lanes, backing up and turning at intersections. Safer-driving tips recommend regular vision checks, route planning, driving refresher courses and limited driving during peak traffic and inclement weather.

A new state law, effective July 1, will require people over age 80 to pass vision exams to receive or renew a driver’s license. Some states impose age limits for driving.

GrandDriver is available on the Internet at https://www.grand-driver.net

The program, devised by the DMV, state Department of Aging and the Virginia chapter of the AARP, features an animated Gov. Mark Warner in TV commercials promoting it.

“It’s a family matter for most Virginians,” said Jay W. DeBoer, commissioner of aging. “There’s no magic formula; there’s no magic age.”

Even Mr. Smit was taken aback when his father brought up the subject recently: What happens once he is no longer able to drive?

Mr. DeBoer said many older drivers may fear losing their independence and mobility.

That’s a sentiment echoed by Tony Hylton III, spokesman for Virginia’s AARP, which has a membership of 920,000.

The AARP estimates that up to 40 percent of older people have online access. Those without it can get the information in paper form by calling 800/552-3402.

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