Bill in Texas legislature Requires Stiffer Measures For Drivers 79 and Older


When Texas House Bill 84, also known as “Katie’s Law,” becomes effective in September, Texas drivers 79 and older will face stricter measures when renewing their drivers’ licenses.
“Katie’s Law” is named after Katie Bolka, the 17-year-old killed last year by a 90-year-old driver who ran a red light in Dallas May 30. The bill would require drivers 79 and older to renew their licenses in person and shortens the time between renewals. HB 84 was introduced by Rep. Dan Branch R-Dallas.

Texas Senate Bill Adds Stricter Measures

Companion Senate Bill 180 would enlist Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) employees to test the vision of drivers 90 and older every two years. TDPS also could request drivers to retake a written or driving test if they appear to have other physical or mental health issues, said Angie Cervantes, policy analyst for state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, co-sponsor of SB 180. Having passed the House and Senate, HB 84 awaits Gov. Rick Perry’s signature.
Bolka died five days after being struck on the driver’s side. She was en route to Ursuline Academy to take a final exam. She would have been a senior that fall. The elderly driver who hit Bolka reportedly was traveling 45 miles an hour, 10 mph over the speed limit.
The Dallas Morning News reported this month if an elderly parent does not volunteer to give up driving, families could enlist the aid of a doctor, attorney or insurance agent. A doctor can write a prescription that prohibits driving and an attorney can explain the legal ramifications of unsafe driving, according to the newspaper.
According to Bryant Martin, spokesman for the Greater Dallas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, “Not only are patients suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s a possible danger to themselves when they get behind the wheel, but they also pose a threat to other motorists if they become confused by traffic signals and the mechanics of a car.” Family members can contact the TDPS to revoke a driver’s license, Martin said. Global Positioning System devices can also be used to track a person’s whereabouts.

Silver Alert System Becomes Texas Law

On May 1 this year, the Texas State Legislature passed the Silver Alert System (SAS), which issues a statewide notice of a missing senior. Modeled after the Amber Alert System, SAS is designed to inform the public when older people with mental impairments, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are reported missing. State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, a bill co-sponsor, took action after the disappearance of an elderly El Paso man revealed no effective way of issuing such an alert.
According to the Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, SAS would assist state and local law enforcement to locate the approximately 900 senior citizens who are reported missing in Texas each year. After the bill is signed by Gov. Perry, the bill becomes law in September.
The Morning News reported more than 483,000 Texans age 79 and older have noncommercial driver's licenses. The Senate provided these age breakdowns of Texas drivers: ages 79-84: 318,335; ages 85-89: 123,083 and ages 90 and older: 41,846.