During our lifetime, we treat driving as a right of passage, a sign of our independence. Driving is often essential because so many basics, like grocery stores, are often too far away to reach on foot and are not located near public transportation. However, as we age and some of our senses deteriorate, the risk of an accident becomes greater. This has led some West Virginia officials to consider whether older drivers should undergo more regular testing.
Currently, West Virginia and most other states seldom require senior citizens to regularly take road tests after the age of 75. Only Illinois and New Hampshire require automatic testing. Ten states require mandatory vision tests after a certain age, and 15 require older drivers to have their license renewed more frequently than younger drivers. Yet West Virginia is one of the few states to have no mandatory re-testing or additional regulations for senior drivers at all.
This has led to situations like a 97-year old man driving his car through a lane closed for construction near Charleston. The man’s Chevrolet ended up jumping a bridge and landing on a hillside. Fortunately after the man was taken to CAMC General Hospital for treatment, his condition was listed as fair, but it was a warning sign that accidents of far graver consequences could take place.
The only measure in place to get an elderly driver to retest is if a family member, law enforcement official, or doctor intervenes. This person would need to write a letter to the DMV discussing their concerns and asking for a retest. Most of the letters from the DMV come from law enforcement officials. The letter cannot be sent anonymously, and the driver has a right to question it, making an already cumbersome process for driver accountability even more so.
Some state legislators want to take action on the issue, such as state Senator Corey Palumbo. The difficulty is determining which age would be the starting point for mandatory testing. Other legislators, like Delegate Ron Walters, claim that older drivers will automatically know when it is time to turn over the keys; his mother did so at the age of 85 after she realized she was no longer safe on the freeway.
Unfortunately, it is not always easy to know, or accept, when our faculties are declining. Whereas a letter to the DMV would carry with it an aspect of shame, a mandatory test for all drivers of a certain age does not. A driver would have an objective means of telling whether he or she had difficulties, and possibly have the option of a retest if he or she disagreed with the results. The grim alternative is that elderly drivers either cause accidents through poor driving, harming themselves or others, or they are unable to sufficiently react to other peoples’ bad driving. Since even younger drivers can get careless and forget roadway safety, retesting is not a bad idea even for those who are not considered seniors.
The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia personal injury attorney, contact us today.