Victor Johansen has been driving on Salt Lake City streets since the early 1920s. He claims he is still a good driver and has good eyesight. Yet he recently participated in a state program and turned his driver's license over to the state.
"My main reason for turning it in is because it's getting too wild on the road," said the 87-year-old Johansen. "It's a fast world we're living in and getting worse all the time."The Utah Driver License Division has launched a program encouraging those with driving impairments, particularly older drivers, to trade in their drivers' licenses for state identification cards.
The "Good Driver Incentive Program" will acknowledge older drivers who voluntarily surrender their drivers' licenses, as well as those who have physical impairments or health problems that affect their driving abilities, said Gary Whitney, public information officer for the Department of Public Safety.
"We want them to voluntarily do it instead of being involved in an accident," Whitney said.
The program will offer a picture identification card at no charge to those who turn in their licenses. Qualifying drivers will then be mailed a certificate of recognition and a letter of appreciation for their years of safe driving.
Johansen said no one encouraged him to turn in his license, but his belief that the streets are less safe and the increase in car insurance premiums for a person his age helped him make the decision to give up his driving privileges. Even though he said he is a safe driver and has never caused an accident, if he were involved in an accident, he believes he would be blamed.
"No matter what the circumstances, I'd get the blame because I'm the old man," said Johansen, who said he always drove within the speed limit even though motorists would constantly tailgate him.
Johansen said even though he would prefer to see the road filled with elderly drivers, who he said are usually much safer, he would still encourage anyone who is approaching his age to turn over their license.
Whitney emphasized, however, that his department is not trying to get older drivers off the streets. No one's license should be jeopardized solely because of age. "This program gives them an opportunity," he said.
"A driver's license is such an important thing to people. It's a symbol of their freedom. We don't want to do anything to take away that freedom from them," Whitney said. "But if they realize they have driving problems, this will provide them a way to do it."
Friends and family members may be able to use the program to help someone who isn't driving too well, he said. Whitney also said many people do not drive, yet they must pass eye exams, driving tests and written tests just so they can have proper identification.
"Now they won't have to go through with that just for an I.D.," he said.
Driver license officials say that while no one should have to give up his or her license solely because of age, studies show driving skills start to decline about age 55, and conspicuously so after 75.
Johansen said he misses the freedom of driving his car, but he now gets more exercise and has more peace of mind.