One woman was killed and two others suffered serious injuries when a 95-year-old driver lost control of his pickup truck in a Smithfield, North Carolina (NC), Walmart parking lot and ran into the women. Though the driver was visiting from Newport News, Virginia (VA), the tragic accident has brought focus to the issue of seniors behind the wheel in the Tar Heel State.
Police told WRAL TV that they were investigating the wreck to see whether criminal charges should be filed against the man who hit the women as they were in a crosswalk and he was searching for a parking space. According to the man, though, the accident was truly accidental. "My foot must have slipped off the brake," he told the television station.
Both North Carolina and Virginia place extra requirements on older people who want to retain and renew their driver’s license. The NC Department of Motor Vehicles requires residents older than 66 to get a new license every five years, apply in person at a DMV office, pass a vision test and, if an official has concerns about safety, pass a written exam and road test.
The requirements for senior drivers in Virginia are similar, though the age at which Virginians must meet stricter DMV licensing rules is higher, at 80. The VA DMV can also require a senior citizen to submit to a medical review to determine whether he or she is healthy enough to drive.
As a Carolina and Virginia personal injury attorney who has represented victims of car and truck accidents for nearly 25 years, I know that ensuring every person behind the wheel of a vehicle is skilled and healthy enough to drive safely is of the utmost importance. At the same time, I recognize that denying seniors the opportunity to drive can severely limit their abilities to live full, productive lives.
There are no easy answers to the questions of how and when to license seniors to drive, but it is good to know that North Carolina and Virginia have procedures in place to ensure no one whose physical condition would make them a danger to themselves and others gets a driver’s license.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.