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DMV Putting CA Senior Drivers to the Test

Drivers who need to renew their licenses could soon be in for some changes. Some Northern California drivers are being put through an extensive three-tier test to make sure they're road-worthy. Full F

Drivers who need to renew their licenses could soon be in for some changes. Some Northern California drivers are being put through an extensive three-tier test to make sure they're road-worthy. Full Focus reporter Heather Hill has the story on the pilot program.

When it's time to renew an expired driver's license, you can usually do it by mail or online. But if you are age 70 or older, or have had several extensions by mail, you may have to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles in person to get the renewal. These days, once you navigate the lines, there's a little paperwork, an eye exam, and sometimes a written test. But a new program could make the process more complicated.

A new DMV test is designed to pinpoint medical and physical impairments that could affect a person's ability to drive. It comes in response to the expanding numbers of drivers over 65 -- the fastest growing segment of the population.

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that death rates for drivers over 70 are higher than for middle-aged drivers. The expanded test comes in three parts: screenings for vision, mental and physical health. Then, a test on driving rules and an assessment of response time. Drivers who don't pass these first tests have to get behind the wheel for a road test.

Eighty-seven year-old Tanya Berggreen is still a licensed driver and she thinks the new test would unfairly target seniors who have good driving records.

<b> Berggreen: </b> I mean, why do you have to go through all that extra? To me, you're just wasting time. You know, if they do know how to drive, they didn't have any tickets in the last so many years, they put so many miles on their car, you know, isn't that proof enough?

Bill Gilmore used to teach an AARP driving class for seniors. He agrees something needs to be done to address the problem of unfit drivers on the road, but worries the state doesn't have enough money or resources to make this program work.

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<b> Gilmore: </b> The basic thing that I'm concerned about is the lack of people and congestion at the DMV building to take care of this. Now the question is, with the money we don't have, will they be able to make it or is it just another of those things that they did as a political gimmick?

I also spoke with a representative of the Automobile Club of Southern California. He says while Triple-A doesn't support proposals for driving tests that single-out senior citizens, they're in favor of this program because it tests everyone for impairments that can occur at any age.