State could order retests for elderly drivers under new bill - WSMV News 4

State could order retests for elderly drivers under new bill

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The decision to take the car keys from an aging driver can be a frightening and life-changing conversation for any family.

Now, one Tennessee lawmaker hopes new legislation would take some of that pressure off family members and force the Department of Transportation to take action.

Teenie Fearheiley has been driving for more than a half century, and the 78-year-old said the privilege of driving is a gift she doesn't take for granted.

"Oh, to have wheels is freedom," she said.

But Fearheiley and other seniors know that with age comes the big question about whether or not an older person who is also physically or mentally impaired should be driving at all.

"It would be very hard. I hope I don't get to that point. I hope I'm gone before I can't drive," Fearheiley said.

State Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Howenwald, is also a physician, and as a doctor, he often interacts with families concerned about aging, impaired drivers.

Hensley said he even had to personally intervene when his aging father-in-law began having issues with driving.

Now, Hensley has introduced a bill that would allow a doctor and a family member to write the Department of Transportation with documented concerns about an impaired, older driver. Then, within 20 days of written notice, the Department of Transportation would have the authority to order the person to retake the written and driving exam.

If the person fails the test, their drivers' license could be suspended.

"Driving is a privilege, and we want everybody to drive who is able to drive, but we don't want somebody on the street that's impaired or cognitively not able to drive or physically not able to drive," Hensley said.

Volunteers with the Alzheimer's Association of Middle Tennessee said they were in favor of something being done to help older and impaired drivers and their families.

"And once that doctor steps in with a family member and says, 'We need to have some action,' I think it has a lot more value when a physician says it versus the family members," volunteer Amanda Barlow said.

The measure is now in committee, so it has a ways to go before it could become law.

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