Senior Citizen’s Driving Privileges

An 86 year old Pennsylvania woman recently lost her driver’s license indefinitely, despite the fact that her personal physician certified that she was competent to drive.

The woman’s licensing problems started when an ambulance driver witnessed her driving erratically and reported her to the local police. The ambulance driver noted that the woman crossed back and forth over the double yellow line, nearly sideswiping two cars. He also reported that she traveled several miles swerving and meandering into the wrong lane of traffic, causing oncoming motorists to take evasive action. The ambulance driver identified the woman’s car and license plate number and described her physically.

Based on the report of the local police, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) sent the woman a letter advising her that she had to have a physical examination and had to file a report from her doctor that she was medically fit to drive. She did so, and her doctor found her to be physically and mentally capable of driving. But PennDOT was apparently unsatisfied and followed up with a second written request, requiring that the woman then report for a driving exam. The woman passed the vision portion of the examination, but failed the portion on driving laws and traffic signs.

The woman appealed, arguing that once her doctor certified her as capable of driving, PennDOT had no right to demand further testing. The woman won in the county trial court but lost when PennDOT appealed the case. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court held that the Motor Vehicle Code gives PennDOT specific and broad powers to require one or more examinations of any driver who may not be physically or mentally qualified to drive.

The court noted that a driver’s involvement in a single accident could justify PennDOT’s requiring either a medical examination or further driver’s testing. Because PennDOT has comprehensive authority to require medical examinations and driver’s testing, any driver who receives such a request must quickly comply. Driving in Pennsylvania is a privilege, not a right, and any driver’s present capacity to drive is a matter for PennDOT’s determination.

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