Extra scrutiny for elderly drivers fails in Va. Senate


State Sen. Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) talks with Sen. Jill Vogel (R-Fauquier) at the Capitol in Richmond on Feb. 23, 2013. (Steve Helber/AP) (Steve Helber/AP)

An attempt to increase oversight of “mature” drivers in Virginia failed in the state Senate on Wednesday after a spirited debate between lawmakers worried about their elderly parents and those more concerned with angry elderly voters.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Jeffrey L. McWaters (R-Virginia Beach), would require drivers to renew their licenses at age 75 rather than 80. From then on, their licenses would expire every five years rather than every eight. It would also create a course in mature driver motor vehicle crash prevention that could be required in court cases.

The bill came out of a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles study and was endorsed by the American Association of Retired Persons, McWaters said. In fact, he knew of only one opponent — his mother.

Several other senators in both parties suggested that older residents in their districts might be on the mother’s side. Sen. Stephen D. Newman (R-Lynchburg) went from opposing the bill to supporting it, saying that his vote “has not been one of courage.”

But the bill failed 19 to 19, with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) voting against.

Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) had a message for everyone voting “yay.”

“You young whippersnappers voting for this bill,” the 73-year-old declared, “your day will come.”

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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