Seniors debate driver retesting

October 10, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Seven senior citizens sat around a banquet table Thursday night with retiree Harold Hartleroad, and joined him in applauding Gov. Cecil Underwood for his stand against mandatory retesting of older drivers to see if they are still fit to drive.

Underwood, 74, told about 150 volunteers of the state chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons that existing laws give police and state Department of Motor Vehicles officials authority to retest any motorist when there is evidence of risk or a poor driving record.

"It's not an age issue. It's an issue of driving record," Underwood said.

Thursday's meeting, held at the Holiday Inn Martinsburg, was the West Virginia chapter's first volunteers convention.

Two weeks ago, Joe Miller, newly appointed state motor vehicles commissioner, suggested that older drivers should no longer receive automatic driver's license renewals.


Underwood said that it won't happen.

Hartleroad, 69, of St. Mary's, W.Va., said that while some seniors have physical problems that could affect their ability to drive, not all should be forced to take tests.

"It's a problem for some, and for some people it isn't. The question is who would do the testing, their doctors?" he said.

Martha Watson of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., thinks mandatory testing is OK as long as all drivers are tested.

Across the table, Gerry McIntyre, also of St. Mary's, said she thinks no one should be tested without a specific reason. "It's alright if there's a medical reason or if they've had several accidents," she said.

Ruth Hurt of Beckley, W.Va., agreed with Underwood that a system is in place to test drivers whose medical history or driving record warrants it.

"It's wrong to pick on one group," said Louise Godbey of Charleston, W.Va.

William F. Brown, spokesman for the AARP's Southeast Region, said the organization opposes testing based solely on age. "It violates federal discrimination statutes," he said.

State Del. Vicki Douglas, D-Berkeley, supports some kind of random testing for all drivers.

"It's a touchy subject," said Douglas, 60. "I'm aware that I may have become complacent in my driving as I get older. I worry that that complacency may one day become dangerous. I drive about 40,000 miles a year in a time when there are more people on the road. Many older people voluntarily limit their driving to daytime, avoid turnpike travel, and only drive where they feel comfortable" she said.

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