By CALVIN PYNN
A new mature driver law that went into effect Thursday now requires drivers over the age of 75 take a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles every five years to renew their driver’s licenses.
This adjusts the current law by substracting five years from the required age and three years from the renewal requirement. Before Jan. 1, any driver over the age of 80 had to renew their license every eight years.
The new law, called “Darren’s Law,” was passed in 2014 as the result of a DMV-led study. Representatives from the medical profession, elder care industry, state agencies, state colleges and universities, law enforcement, AARP, AAA Mid-Atlantic, insurance industries and concerned citizens all participated in the study.
The law was named in memory of Darren Morrell, a 32-year-old Oakton man who was killed by an elderly driver turning into traffic without looking, hitting his motorcycle. The driver was unaware of the accident, and continued driving until he was stopped a short distance up the road.
Morrell’s family led the movement for greater safety standards for older drivers. Delegate Timothy Hugo championed the bill, with assistance from Senator Jeffery McWaters, who carried a companion bill in the state senate.
“In many cases, seniors are some of the safest drivers out there,” DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb said in an announcement last week. “However, we know that aging naturally brings about health changes that can affect driving.”
He added that the new law is a good compromise that protects other drivers while still allowing seniors to drive if they are safely able to do so. The new law also gives courts the option to require older drivers to take a mature driver motor vehicle crash prevention course when ruling over driver-related offenses.
Each renewal will include a vision screening, the standard for anyone renewing a license in person. As the new law has just now gone into affect, however, drivers over 75 will not need to renew their current licenses until they are set to expire.
Driving safety tips and other resources can be found at GrandDriver.net, a DMV-funded initiative of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.