Lawyer seeks more driver tests for elderly

May 8, 2001

Rod Ohira

53,000 motorists would be affected

Hawaii motorists 72 years or older should be required to take more than an eye test for license renewal, says attorney Richard "Rick" Fried.

"If you got your license here at age 16, you can drive until you're 100 without ever showing competency again," Fried said. "At a reasonable point -- 72 is good because the law now requires (drivers 72 and older) to go back every two years instead of six years to take an eye test -- people need to be tested on their driving skills to determine physical dexterity and reaction time.

"I'm not picking on the elderly. There are a lot of people at 82 who should not be driving and others at 82 who are just fine."

Fried will raise the issue today in discussing a civil suit filed last Friday in which he is representing the estate of a 24-year-old man killed Feb. 15 at Handi Pantry Store in Kaimuki. Darell J.K. Maglinti was using the gas pump when a 1999 Ford Taurus driven by 82-year-old Wallace P. Yee reversed at high speed, striking Maglinti's vehicle twice and crushing him.

"He appears to have lost control of the car," Fried said of Yee. "Police found a carpet over the gas pedal."

George Playdon, Yee's lawyer, noted there was a Ford recall on the 1999 Taurus for accelerator problems and is having Yee's car tested to determine if that was the cause.

As to the age issue raised by Fried, city motor vehicle and licensing division administrator Dennis Kamimura says requiring older drivers to take a special test could be challenged as discriminatory.

"It's a delicate subject," Kamimura said while acknowledging that National Highway Transportation officials are also reviewing issues pertaining to older drivers.

Fifty-three thousand of Hawaii's 769,000 licensed drivers are 72 years or older, Kamimura says. Veteran police traffic and patrol officers, requesting anonymity, note that older drivers are not reckless but tend to be hazardous because of the reaction of other motorists to their slow and cautious driving.

"It should be a family decision," said Kamimura, who noted that he recently got his father to stop driving.