WIS Investigates: How old is too old to drive? - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

WIS Investigates: How old is too old to drive?

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Just how old is too old to drive? Just how old is too old to drive?
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

A slow speed chase in Kershaw County by a 92-year-old man raised a question of how old is too old to drive.

The call came in near dusk in Kershaw County.

"A reckless driver headed east on I-20 towards Florence. Driving without lights on. In and out of traffic," said Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews.

Matthews remembers seeing the vehicle from across the dark highway the evening of June 26.

"The traffic lieutenant said, ‘He almost hit me on the side of the road,'" Matthew said. "He was able to jump out of the way."

What followed was a chase, but the words "high speed" don't fit here. Investigators say the driver reached speeds of only 50 miles per hour.

"He said, ‘We're not going very fast, but the guy's not stopping,'" Matthews said. "They kind of boxed him in and slowed him down. And he stopped right in the middle of the interstate. He was an elderly man. He was very confused. He had to use a walker to get off to the side of the road."

Deputies stayed with the 92-year-old man until his family could pick him up. It was an unusual case for Kershaw County, and it had people talking on social media.

"At some point you just gotta say, ‘Enough. I don't need to be behind the wheel,' or ‘Mom and Dad, you don't need to be behind the wheel,'" Matthews said.

There are 23 million drivers that are age 70 or older, and that number has grown by 30 percent since 1997, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"They only made news when something spectacular happens," said Kevin Shwedo, executive director for the state Department of Motor Vehicles. "The little old lady that misses the brake and hits the accelerator and drives through the front of the 711. That's going to be news for an entire week."

Shwedo says his agency is not in the business of restricting who can drive.

"There's a misconception out there that the DMV can go ahead and revoke your license because a family member calls and says, ‘My Mom or Dad is no longer able to drive,'" said Shwedo. "The only two people who can revoke that license or have it revoked are the family physician and law enforcement."

One restriction WIS found is if you are over 65, the renewal on your license is only good for five years. Shwedo says additional restrictions on senior drivers aren't necessary.

"If you start creating laws on the statistical anomaly, you start burdening the rest of society with unnecessary restraints," Shwedo said.

According to the state Department of Public Safety, drivers 65 and older are more likely to be injured or die as a result of a crash. They are also twice as likely compared to younger drivers to suffer a crash due to a medical event.

"Their reflexes are slower. They can't see as well," Matthews said. "It's gonna happen to everybody. It's gonna happen to me."

If someone fails an eye exam, DMV leaders tell WIS a doctor's note can tip the scales back in their favor. But doctors, like Allen Wenner, have their own concerns about senior drivers on the road. Drivers like his 91-year-old mother, Pauline.

"You don't drive in the rain, you don't drive at night," Wenner said.

Seniors have been the target of road rage before, but WIS wanted to see how well these experienced drivers navigated the roads when put to the test.

Coming up at 11 p.m. Wednesday, WIS gets a driving instructor to put senior drivers to the test.

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.

  • How old is too old to drive?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    60-70
    3%
    10 votes
    80-90
    18%
    75 votes
    90+
    5%
    23 votes
    Depends on health
    74%
    314 votes
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