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The number of centenarian drivers might surprise you

Wondering why that motorist in the lane beside you looks so old?

Could be because they are.

New state figures show there's 110 licensed drivers in Washington who, as of Jan. 10, are at least 100 years old. They are among the 2,394 state residents 95 and older who are still licensed drivers.

SR reporter Chelsea Bannach stumbled onto the figures today while working on an upcoming article about organ donors. As part of the reporting for that article, she had requested figures from the state Department of Licensing about the number of motorists who list organ donor on their drivers licenses.

The agency sent a list showing the statewide numbers by age and gender. And the columns kept going and going and going. The list stopped at drivers who are 100 years old.

By the way, most motorists in their 90s are not organ donors, according to the state figures, a pattern that holds for both men and women. Move up a couple decades, however, and the number of licensed drivers in their 70s who are organ donors easily outnumbers those who aren't.

Look for Bannach's article this weekend.

2 men suspected in Ford fiend thefts

Spokane Valley police recently arrested a man for a series of vehicle prowls targeting Ford trucks after using Department of Licensing records to identify the suspect's SUV.

Surveillance video showed two men breaking into several Ford trucks at different locations and leaving in a green Chevrolet Suburban with a temporary license plate in the rear window.

Detectives looked through the DOL database for recently purchased Suburbans and found a 1998 green one purchased by Peter N. Harras, 29. Harras (left) was listed in the pawn shop database as having pawned several items between Aug. 1 and Sept. 18, which was the same period as the prowlings. The items matched items stolen in the prowlings.

Harras was arrested Friday at his apartment, 940 S. Lincoln St., where detectives found other items stolen in the prowlings.

Harras, who has several felony convictions for theft and stolen property, remains in jail on $7,500 bond after appearing in Superior Court Monday.

Police still are looking for Johnnie Lee Bonner, 33, (right) whom they say acted as an accomplice. He is white, 6 feet tall, about 250 pounds and has a shaved head and a white pride tattoo on his arm.

Anyone with information on Bonner's location is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Past coverage:

Sept. 14: Cop's truck is latest Ford fiend target

Can the owner of Evergreen Towing try to start a second tow company?

This post is sort of a mailbag response. Last week we wrote about the role the Washington State Department of Licensing played in slapping a Spokane tow truck firm for alleged misdeeds during this year’s Hoopfest. A Spokesman.com story summarized the key issues.

The company, Evergreen State Towing was accused by the state of towing vehicles with willful disregard for due process, causing drivers thousands of dollars in recovery and legal costs. In its ruling, the state DOL slapped Evergreen with a five-year suspension (which Evergreen can still appeal).

Question came in: what would stop the owner of Evergreen to shut down one truck towing firm and start another?

We asked Lewis Dennie, the Spokane manager forthe DOL’s dealer and manufacturing services. He said the state agency closely monitors new applications to insure this doesn’t happen. A cross-checking method is used to check names of business applicants and see if the person has any penalties in place, Dennie said.

The same method of cross-checking looks at the address provided by an applicant, he said.

Asked if the state has acted against false applicants, Dennie said: “We have taken formal administrative actions to deny an applicant an application due to the conditions (of having a prior violation). It is important to keep in mind the applicant will often withdraw an application once we begin the review process and make the applicant aware of the pending action by DOL.”


When did Washington start licensing tow truck companies?

Yesterday’s announcement that the Washington Department of Licensing was teeing off, big time, on Spokane-based Evergreen State Towing Co., made us wonder: How many towing companies do we have in this town?

Lewis Dennie, the Dept. of Licensing Northeast regional manager, came back with the answer:  49 registered and licensed tow companies, a number that still includes Everygreen State Towing. Evergreen, as this story by Shawn Vestal explains, got hit by the DOL fairly hard for a scurrilous practice of batch towing of vehicles, without the proper authorization, during this past year’s Hoopfest.

We tried on Friday to determine how long Washington has been in the business of regulating tow companies. The state’s DOL people are still hunting that information.

Here’s the big takeaway:  For all you folks and Tea Partiers who denounce the role of government as being too intrusive and too costly, take a good look at how this situation turned out. If the state was not in charge of watchdogging and regulating tow companies, who’d have provided any control or redress for the couple dozen folks whose vehicles were caught up in this scam?

Was this a case of Big government getting in the way of ordinary daily give-and-take? Or was this the way the system is supposed to work? Or is this about as much government as people around here care to support?

Footnote: Kent Meyers, the owner of Evergreen State Towing, has routinely not replied to any media inquiries, so I didn’t call him for a comment.  He has about 20 more days to file an appeal of the state’s penalties, which amount to a fine of $38,000 and a five-year suspension of the towing license.