JULY 2009: A June 18 email to members asking for opinions on Senate Bill 1929, filed by Senator Brian Joyce (D-Milton), which would require members 85 and over, to take a road test prior to being reissued a new license, has resulted in varied opinions.

As of July 6th, there were 118 replies from members age 85 or over. Twenty-one have already given up their license because of personal reasons, either physical or neurological. Of the remainder, 48 said they were in favor of a road test and felt they could pass such a test, 31 said they opposed such a test unless drivers of all ages were also tested, and 14 gave mixed answers, depending on driving records or cognitive tests.

The response from 895 members under age 85 was an interesting mix. Many had indirect or conditional opinions and were not subject to a yes or no.

However, we were able to identify 438 as being unconditionally in favor of a road test for age 85 or greater and 221 as being totally opposed. The remaining 236 responders either leaned one way or another, depending on individual health or driving records. Several were in favor of lowering the 85 age to 75 or 70, while others thought that, everyone, especially members of the State Legislature, should have a periodic road exam test.

About ten percent of those responding now reside, some part-time, in states that require road tests at a certain age. A large number of the responders included insightful and thought-provoking ideas and opinions. We thank those members who took time to opine on this issue.

"I assure you that both I and other officers and members of the staff, read every email. It would be unfair to pick out certain letters and reply without replying to every letter; therefore, on behalf of myself and our officers and staff, I wish to thank you personally for your concern and interest to this matter," said Association President Ralph White.

The Transportation Committee held a hearing on this bill (S1929) and others on June 30. One bill, H3019, filed by Rep. Pedone (D-Worcester,) would have all drivers take a road test upon each even numbered renewal, which would be once every 10 years in most cases.

We now believe that the Committee will ultimately draft its own bill. That will be the bill reported to the House and Senate for their action, and then will probably be amended or modified by either branch. Even though interest in this legislation is heightened every time that a senior is involved in a serious at-fault accident, we do believe that the House and Senate will act responsibility and not rush to judgment of elderly drivers.

When the Committee on Transportation reports a final draft of this legislation, we will update this article. Senator Steven Baddour (D-Methuen) and Representative Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee) are the co-chairmen of the Transportation Committee.

Senior Insurance Discount Endangered

With the focus on elderly driving, it was not surprising that the insurance industry would utilize this opportunity to re-visit a defeat that they suffered in 1978, when we successfully enacted legislation that automatically reduced automobile insurance premiums by 25% for Massachusetts vehicle owners age 65 and older. This was Chapter 511 of the Acts of '78, signed into law by then-Governor Michael Dukakis.

Now, according to the media, the Automobile Insurance Bureau, spurred by the several accidents apparently caused by drivers over the age of 75, is quietly studying the accident rates of all seniors. This is not surprising. The fight to obtain this benefit was opposed by the well-heeled insurance lobbyists, and we were not expected to win. Representative Ted Aleixo (D-Taunton) and Senator Dan Foley (D-Worcester), the co-chairmen of the Legislature's Insurance Committee, surprised the insurance lobby by staying with us as did Senate President Kevin Harrington (D-Salem) and House Speaker Tom McGee (D-Lynn).

Although the over 65 - 25% discount applies to all Mass. vehicle owners, regardless of income, it is the vast majority of retirees with low or modest income that have greatly benefited from this statute, and we will rally every senior group in the state, in addition to our Association, if it appears this benefit becomes endangered