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Beverly Hills Weekly
Beverly Hills, California
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January 27, 2000     Beverly Hills Weekly
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January 27, 2000
 

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opinionD R N The public opinion forum where Beverly Hills dukes out the issues IS THE NEW UNSAFE DRIVERS BILL DISCRIMINATORY? CALIFORNIA COMMISSION ONAGING PRO John T. Kehoe Senator Hayden is to be commended for wanting our streets and highways to be safer places. However, the Calilfornia Commission on Aging has opposed his legislative efforts to date because there is a far too sweeping indictment of the "older driver." There is functional impairment of driving at all ages. This should be addressed in the process of seeking safety on our highways. The problem which needs to be addressed is the disjointed process that applies to licensing drivers of all ages. The real problem in the senior area relates to dementia-suffering persons. Doctors and other care-givers often fail to perform their legal duty and noti- fy authorities when they deem an affected person is not fit for unrestricted driving. This is where the likely source of a considerable amount of unsafe drivers exists. - The Missouri Legislature recogized this real cause, and enacted legisalation called "Good Cause" to require drivers to submit to an examination as based on reports by law enforcement officers, physicians, physical therapists, occu- pational therapists, registered nurses, social workers, or any member of the operator's family over the age of 1 g within 3 degrees of consanguinity. They recognized that there was absolutely no reference to the age of the driver. Let's avoid discrimination against older drivers per se and deal with root causes. John T. Kehoe is the Executive Director of the California Commission of Aging. The California Commission on Aging was established in 1974. The Statutory responsibility is to advise the governor and legislature on policy matters relating to those over 60 in the state of Califm'nia. CON Tom Hayden The goal of Senate Bill 335 was to get unsafe drivers off the road before their behind-the-wheel failings got someone killed. Because the bill initially called for periodic behind-the- wheel tests for drivers 75 and up (medical data and accident statistics show drivers 75 and older are involved in increased collisions), it was targeted by senior organizations as discrim- inatory. While the bill has been amended to remove any reference to age, the goal of SB 335 remains the same. The amended bill has three provisions: * to set minimum vision standards so those who are legally blind can no longer obtain a driver's license; .... " * to require the Department of Motor Vehicles to conduct a behind-the-wheel test on any driver reported as unsafe by a law enforcement officer, a doctor or family member; * allow the DMV to bring in on its own initiative a driver it deems "at risk" for a behind-the-wheel test. A task force of representatives of law enforcement agencies, senior organiza- tions and driver safety organizations will be created to help DMV develop a def- inition for "at risk" driver Despite these amendments, the bill still has opponents in Sacramento. They claim a driver should only be judged om his or her individual driving record. And until the bill specifically says so'they will continue to oppose it. This line of reasoning ignores existing state law and DMV policy, which are based on medical data and driving statistics. CUrrently, drivers over 70 cannot renew their licenses by mail. Instead, they must eon-imo a DMV office for vision and written tests. And last session, the Legislature passedinto law a nw.as- ure that strictly curtails the driving privileges of teenagers. last summer, two statewide surveys of likely voters showed strong support for the bill (including respondents over 65) in its original form. I believe we have a shared experience, maybe a fear, of watching a parent or grandparent climbing into a car when we know it's not safe. Nevertheless, I have worked with AARP and other senior organizations to model the SB335 into something they feel more comfortable with. Now it's time we all get behind SB335 so it is passed into law. If so, I'm confident lives will be saved. State Senator Tom Hayden (D.Los Angeles) represents the 23rd district, which includes Beverly Hills and theWestside. If you have an idea for 'q'he Ring", call 310.688.6761 January 27-February 2, 2000 s 5