- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday suspended city requirements that drivers 75 and older take written and road tests before having their licenses renewed.

“We think that this is not only the right compromise for traffic safety and public safety, but it’s the right thing to do for our seniors, who in large measure have demonstrated great patience with the government and a great ability to make sure that they follow the traffic laws of the District of Columbia,” Mr. Fenty told residents at Campbell Heights Apartments in Northwest.

The suspension coincides with the D.C. Council’s consideration of a bill to eliminate such tests based solely on a driver’s age.

Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat and chairman of the Committee on Public Works and the Environment, introduced the bill. He said the council also is likely to enact emergency legislation to remove such rules.

However, applicants 70 and older must still undergo vision testing and submit a doctor’s certification affirming their ability to drive.

The District had some of the toughest requirements in the country on older drivers.

Illinois and New Hampshire are the only other jurisdictions to mandate road tests for seniors trying to renew their driver’s licenses.

The District is the only jurisdiction that also requires senior drivers to pass a written test.

“If you take both of these [tests] out, we’re still among the toughest in the nation,” Mr. Graham said. “And it’s enough.”

The policy changes follow the outcry from senior citizens when the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles last year began enforcing a little-used law that calls for the tests.

The enforcement was in part a response to accidents across the country involving older drivers.

Through March 2, only 7 percent of seniors who took D.C. road tests failed, according to DMV statistics cited by AAA Mid-Atlantic.

John B. Townsend II, a spokesman for the group, said only three of the drivers failed the retest.

“There is no empirical evidence that senior drivers pose a hazard to other drivers or pedestrians on our streets,” he said.

Seniors cheered Mr. Fenty’s announcement.

Mabel Abbott, who said she started driving in 1975, was confident she could pass the tests but appreciated not having them required.

“I’m capable of passing, but it might make me a little nervous,” said Miss Abbott, 79. “This will be a blessing.”

Allene Rawlings, 76, said seniors are not to blame for unsafe roads.

“After you hit 75 they don’t want you to drive,” she said. “But who’s having accidents out there? The teenagers.”

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