Should seniors be required to retake driving tests?

Published: Dec. 7, 2018 at 5:27 PM EST
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A wrong-way crash on Thursday night claimed the lives of two Vermonters, one a senior citizen.

Police say Herbert Kennedy, 89, of White River Junction, was driving the wrong way on Interstate 91 near the Norwich exit. They say Kennedy collided head-on with Patrick Covey, 33, of Bradford. Covey died at the scene. Kennedy died at the hospital.

Our Dom Amato talked to state officials about older drivers and when it's time to hang up the keys.

"Wrong-way crashes certainly don't occur very often but when they do, they're almost always very high-profile and almost always, again, very serious," said Adam Silverman, the public information officer for the Vermont State Police.

Thursday night's crash is still under investigation but police say there could be multiple reasons for a wrong-way crash.

"Inattention, impairment, issues with cognitive abilities, tiredness," Silverman said.

This was the second wrong-way crash within a month involving a senior over 75.

According to a report by the Vermont Highway Safety Alliance, older drivers accounted for 26 percent of suspected serious crashes and 21 percent of fatal crashes in 2017. Both are increases from 2016.

"We've been successful in identifying many people who really should not be on the road any longer," said Dave Evans, the chief of driver improvement at the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles.

Evans says a program started two years ago allows physicians to test seniors flagged for possible issues when they're driving. If a doctor decides someone might not be fit to drive, the doctor can send the senior to a driver rehab program.

"What are you going to do when you're not able to drive anymore? And that kind of plants that seed and allows them to think about it," Evans said.

Vermont does not have a law requiring seniors to retake a driver's test after a certain age.

WCAX News asked people leaving the DMV what they thought about a driver's retest for seniors.

"As we get older, we have to make the common-sense determination that we're not all as young as we used to be," said Zeina Koinis, who supports retesting seniors.

"I think it's a real tough decision to make," said Dean Lockwood, who does not support retesting seniors. "People out there that are older live far out and they don't have anybody to take them anywhere."

As we know, Vermont is growing older. In that 2017 report, the state acknowledges the aging population and will continue to track crashes and senior drivers.