Tag Archives: driving test

Incident at the driver’s license office

The in basket: Sharon O’Hara, a frequent commenter on Road Warrior columns on my blog at kitsapsun.com, has an issue of her own with the state Department of Licensing.

She was made to waste an hour waiting to renew her license only to learn she had to return for a driving test because she needs “walking sticks” to walk, she said.

“Yesterday I dropped by to renew my license,” she said, “used my two walking sticks to the first counter, waited in line until the person behind the desk asked what I wanted and received a number after I told her.

“She did not mention the walking sticks and I walked back to sit in the hard, uncomfortable chairs for almost an hour before my number was called.

She gave the next person her license. “She asked me if I had trouble driving and I said ‘No, not once I got into the car.’  I can’t walk without the sticks.

The employee excused herself to talk with someone in a side room, Sharon said, “and came back to tell me that people who use canes had to take the driver’s test.

“Surprised, I said, ‘Okay, let’s go.'”

But the tests are given only on Friday, Sharon was told, so she made a 1 p.m. appointment on a Friday. “She told me to park around back in one of the spaces provided and to wait in the car, I didn’t need to get out.
“I asked why the information wasn’t known or shown online? She looked online and couldn’t find (it).
“I told her of the wasted energy – gas – to drive there, not to speak of the almost hour wasted waiting there for something that couldn’t happen because I used ‘canes’ to walk.  That is discrimination in my book.
“My issue is not with the test.  It is that I should have known about that law/rule and been able to phone in for the appointment rather than waste the time and energy to drive there for nothing.
She was told in a phone call to DOL when she got back home that “they couldn’t take calls – that anyone could say anything over the phone – they couldn’t know the truth unless they saw the person.

“That makes no logical sense. Why would anyone claim to use canes to take a drivers test when they didn’t need to?  Nobody would do that.
“The lack of warning that cane users must take the driver test makes me feel we – walking stick and/or seniors might be discriminated against.”

The out basket: I asked Brad Benfield of the DOL if Sharon’s visit to the office had been handled correctly.

“Our staff are trained to watch individuals when they approach the service counters,” Brad said, “and listen to them during a transaction for signs that might indicate they have a physical or cognitive condition that might affect their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

“When the staff encounter an individual they believe may have a condition that would affect their ability to drive, they have options for handling it: they can require the individual to pass a driving test, they can require the individual to be cleared to drive by a medical professional, or they can further discuss and clarify the situation with the individual and issue the license.

“If an individual is required to take the driving test, it is because our staff had a reason to believe the person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle was in question.

“Because our staff are screening for a wide variety of physical and cognitive conditions and there are several possible outcomes, it simply wouldn’t be possible to detail all of the possible scenarios on our website or in a brochure.

“There is a very wide spectrum of reasons someone might use a walking aid. Some might affect a person’s ability to drive, and others might not. Without actually seeing and talking with someone, it would be impossible to make a determination about who should be tested and who should not.

“The use of a walking aid would certainly be a factor in screening someone for a driving test, but there are usually other factors that go along with the use of the aid when a determination is made. It would not be accurate to say ‘everyone who uses a cane has to retake a driving test.'”

Still, he said, “I certainly don’t have firsthand knowledge of (Sharon’s) situation, but it appears the staff handled it appropriately. We do not want to discriminate against anyone. We also do not want to inconvenience anyone by making them take a driving test when it is clear a condition will not affect their ability to drive.”