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Springville Journal editorial: Should New York retest?

SPRINGVILLE — I stood in line, at the Concord Town Hall, to renew my driver’s license with the department of motor vehicles.

As the line crept forward, those of us waiting for our turn could see and hear the exchanges between the DMV employees and their customers.

The gentleman in front of me was asked to read a few lines off the eye test chart. I winced in sympathy, as he bombed the vision test, and was convinced that he would be sent on his way, without a license.

“Hey, looks like you need a new prescription!” the DMV employee said, with a laugh, as she typed on her computer. “Make sure you get new glasses,” she said, as she snapped the man’s photo and handed him his temporary license.

I watched him go, shocked that someone who had completely failed the vision test was now heading out, to drive through Springville, presumably just guessing where road signs, the center line and other drivers were, in relation to his vehicle.

A few days ago, I was driving on Route 219 and became involved in thick congestion, as both lanes of traffic stalled to 20 mph, behind a single car, weaving (albeit slowly) between both lanes. The culprit? A very short senior citizen who was apparently having difficulty seeing over her steering wheel.

A friend of mine, a resident of Cattaraugus County, automatically received his renewed driver’s license through the mail. Because he was legally blind, his family confiscated the license and continued to drive, for him. New York state had failed to check on the status of his changing eyesight.

Driving a car is a right of passage. A symbol of a person’s independence. And a privilege that should be given to only those who have exhibited the necessary physical and mental capabilities to operate a 2-ton vehicle on public roads.

I am appalled that the DMV gives out courtesy licenses, to those who do not meet the necessary requirements and is lazy enough to not even test some applicants.

Many people in both the United States and the United Kingdom have campaigned for regular, compulsory driving tests. New Hampshire and Illinois are the only states that have ever required license-renewing applicants, age 75 and older, to take a road test, in addition to a vision test. New Hampshire eliminated its law, in 2011.

Such legislation does not take into account other demographics that are also not capable of operating a vehicle.

Road testing drivers on a regular basis would not only keep those individuals on their toes and up-to-date with current laws, it would remove drivers who failed and who, obviously, were not capable of being out on the roads.

I understand that this step would force DMVs to purchase driving simulators or hire additional employees, to sit in the testing vehicles, but isn’t our safety, and the offending drivers’, worth it? Plus, much of the cost incurred by the states would be covered, by the retesting charges.

Road tests are no fun. Mine stands out as one of the most stressful experiences of my life. But it made me scrutinize my driving technique and memorize many of New York’s traffic laws and DMV regulations. It’s been nearly 10 years, since I passed my road test, and I have forgotten many laws that I used to know, by heart.

The younger generation has called for the retesting of the elderly. Senior citizens have argued that teenage and 20-something drivers are reckless and should, themselves, be tested. I would argue that everyone should be able to pass a recurring road test, or get out of the driver’s seat.

A higher standard for drivers would mean fewer accidents and safer roads.

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2013-07-18 | 07:40:13
Yes, it is just like someone in New York State to ask for new laws. How about this - we have enough laws already. Just enforce the ones we have. The elderly driver that was weaving on Rt 219 should have been cited for failure to maintain lane. Your main complaint is that the DMV fails to follow their own procedures. So chastise the DMV, then leave the rest of us alone.