Correction to This Article
A March 21 Metro article about driving tests for older people misspelled the name of Capitol Hill resident Earl Godfrey.

Graham Bill Would Eliminate Tests for Older Motorists

By Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Responding to e-mails, telephone calls and letters from senior citizens across the District, D.C. Council member Jim Graham introduced legislation yesterday that would eliminate written and road tests for drivers 75 and older.

Graham, who heard the seniors' complaints during a recent oversight hearing, said he saw no need for the additional tests enforced by the Department of Motor Vehicles started in May 2005. The regulation requires the special tests every five years when senior drivers' licenses are renewed. Drivers over 70 must also take vision and medical tests.

"It does pose a real burden for older drivers, whom I've heard from in great numbers," Graham said, discussing the written and road tests. "I'm not convinced that these tests serve a useful purpose." Graham said he had received dozens of complaints about the tests.

The proposed measure would replace a little-known 34-year-old law that states that older drivers "may" be required to take the tests. When motor vehicle officials reviewed the regulations, they decided to enforce the senior driver restrictions, some of the toughest in the country. New Hampshire and Illinois also require road tests for elderly drivers.

Elinor Ginzler, an AARP expert on older drivers, said consideration of the council bill is an opportunity for the District to address overall driver safety.

"We want reliable, functioning, effective research-based screens to determine whether someone is safe to be driving," Ginzler said. "We want it to happen throughout the life span."

Gloria K. Liebenson, just shy of 85, said she is delighted the city is reconsidering the law. She is scheduled to take the written test today.

"I am faced between now and April 6 with memorizing a whole laundry list of D.C. driving rules, very few of which I have ever observed Washington drivers adhere to," said Liebenson, who lives near American University. "I've been driving safely for over 60 years."

But not all older drivers are opposed to the special tests.

"I've been tested all my life," said Early Godfrey, 81, of Capitol Hill. "It's absolutely illogical not to want to know how you are doing. In this case, it's not only yourself that's going to be in danger, but it's all those other people."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company