'We've got people with white canes driving, and people who can't walk driving.'
– Rep. Mike Gleason, 74, who has introduced a bill which would require drivers age 75 and older to take more frequent vision and driving tests to renew their licenses
PHOENIX - Rep. Mike Gleason wants the auto licensing law changed for older drivers - including himself.
The 74-year-old Sun City West Republican introduced a bill that would require drivers 75 and older to get new licenses every two years.
They would have to pass a vision test and a driving test each time if Gleason's proposal wins approval.
"We've got people with white canes driving, and people who can't walk driving," he said.
The current requirement is renewal every five years.
Gleason said he doesn't doubt that older drivers will oppose his bill but that he doesn't care since he can't run again.
Besides, he said, "I'm probably the first one who's going to have to take the test. If we're picking on anyone, we're picking on me."
The Arizona Automobile Association and American Association of Retired Persons do oppose the bill, saying the key criterion should be an individual's ability to drive, not an arbitrary age.
"No study indicates that age in itself is a driving safety problem," AARP representative Mike Donnelly said.
Representative Henry Camarot of Prescott, whom the bill would also affect personally, said he has not yet had a chance to study the proposal but didn't think he minded the idea.
"My first reaction is, I'm 77 and I think it's a good idea," Camarot said. "I want to look at the bill to see if there is room for compromise, but the idea doesn't offend me."
Two Prescott drivers in the targeted age bracket the Courier contacted weren't enthralled with the idea, though.
Virginia Williams, who is past 75, said, "I think there should be other considerations taken before such a thing is passed" and that age should not be "the only criterion." Motorists in that age bracket, she added, often "are better drivers than younger people."
Echoing that view was Walt Hillman, 75, who said he thinks that legislators should instead "go after the 16- to 21-year-olds who don't always look to see where they're going" and who "cause most of the accidents."
Hillman also voiced a concern over the effective date of any such legislation. From a personal standpoint, he said, "I just renewed for five years" and wondered whether the renewal would remain in effect for that span should the legislation gain approval.
Motor Vehicle Department officials, police, doctors or anyone else can request a review for problem drivers, and there were about 1,600 such requests last year.
At present, Arizonans don't have to renew their licenses until they reach 65, although they must take a vision test and update their photos at least every 12 years.
Drivers age 60 and older had to appear in person for a vision test and renewal every five years until 1999, when lawmakers raised the age requirement to 65.
Lt. Frank Lopez, local commander of the Prescott Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol, said he thinks more reviews of senior drivers would be advantageous, that there are many people currently driving who have no business behind the wheel.
"They come in and they can't remember their wives' names or their husbands' names," Lopez said, "but they still want to drive."
Another Sun City legislator, Republican Sen. Ed Cirillo of Sun City West, said he sees a lot of people driving who shouldn't be driving but that they have little alternative. He said he wouldn't support further restrictions on older drivers until mass transit improves.