On Monday, we talked about Ryan Wesling, the 8-year-old boy run over in a Shiloh school cafeteria by an 84-year-old driver (later identified as Grace Keim) who crashed through the school.
On Tuesday, we discussed whether accidents like this could be avoided by mandating extra testing for older drivers when they want to renew their licenses. Under current law, all we have to do is go to the license bureau, read off VBRXPL (look it up in Chico’s breeder’s guide) for the vision test, and get back on the road.
I proposed that we not only make older drivers take a road test to renew, but that all of us should have to do it every five years, regardless of age (more frequently over the age of 65, as in Illinois). There was overwhelming support from my listeners, although some pointed out how the current road tests don’t really verify that you’re a good driver. All they do is ensure that you can go down the block, make a right at the stop sign, slow down for a yield, and then parallel park, without checking you out on the highway or in busy traffic situations. That should change.
On Wednesday, I received this e-mail from Sheldon Suroff, which addressed another part of the problem — the difficulty people face when having to tell their parents or grandparents that they shouldn’t get behind the wheel anymore. That family dynamic, after someone has been driving for 6 or 7 decades, can be tough to overcome, but there is a system in place to help:
The Shiloh school tragedy has affected us all. I have had several persons call me today regarding your comments on this tragic event.
It is not a matter of testing drivers after a certain age or restricting their driving. It comes down to many forgetting about a law that has been on Missouri’s books since January 1, 1999. I speak of the Missouri Impaired Driver Law.
This is a law that took four years of my wife and my energies to get passed after our 21-year-old son was killed in 1993 avoiding a wrong way driver, and overturning on I-70, east of Kansas City. When we learned it was caused by a 92-year old driver, who had been lost for five days driving aimlessly around the state, we took action and established Concerned Americans for Responsible
The law, which has been called the strongest and fairest driving law to date, was even backed by AARP as it does not discriminate by age. Our law was mirrored one year later by California with just some minor revisions.
The law, which takes some 700 drivers off Missouri roads each year, allows for those closest to the situation, family members, law enforcement and the medical community, to report impaired drivers at any age, whether it be with neuro-muscular and vision problems, over-medication, seizures, dementia, etc.
There are forms available at any license office or on our website, DrivingSafe.org. There is also a copy of the law on the web site. After the form is received by the Department of Revenue, based on pre-determined guidelines of a three member Medical Advisory Board, the department can call for a road test, a medical exam or even a mental health exam, revoke, suspend or leave the licensee in good standing. The edict could also state driving limited to close proximity of the home or no night driving. The driver has 30 days to appeal the ruling.
The law stipulates a Class A misdemeanor for any one attempting to fraudulently report a driver, and contains confidentiality and immunity from prosecution for those reporting. Bottom line, the state will view those closest to the situation reporting as more reliable.