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Accident victim's family wants tougher tests for Maryland drivers

Last week we talked about accidents involving bicycle riders and the importance of sharing the road to avoid accidents. Now the family of a 20-year-old Baltimore man who was killed in a biking accident is pushing for tougher testing of drivers to avoid similar crashes.

The crash happened about a year ago while the man was riding in a bike lane. He was struck by an elderly driver and became trapped under the car. The driver stopped, but rather than call for help, she left her car running, got out and sat on a nearby wall. The man was declared brain dead and died several months later.

His family is now pushing the Maryland General Assembly to pass legislation requiring better testing of driving skills. Functional Capacity Test screening is a series of tests by the Motor Vehicle Administration that measure field of vision, reaction time and other cognitive, visual and physical abilities of drivers. They're usually recommended for elderly drivers like the one who hit the young John Hopkins student on his bike, but anyone potentially suffering physical or mental decline may be asked to take them. The man's father said the tests are currently done through medical referrals or voluntarily, but he thinks it would be easy to make the tests a requirement for some drivers.

The family is also fighting against a prospective change in driver's license renewal that would allow drivers to renew their license every eight years instead of five years. The 83-year-old driver who struck the young man agreed to permanently give up her license as part of a settlement with the family, but there are many other motorists still out on the road who are not fit to drive. Allowing them to drive for an extra three years without even the standard vision test could increase the risk of crashes.

The subject is a sensitive one for elderly drivers, who may not be ready or willing to give up the freedom a driver's license affords them. But identifying high-risk drivers through more rigorous and mandatory testing could go a long way toward preventing accidents like the one that killed the young student.

Source: Baltimore Brew, "Krasnopoler family pushes for competency tests for Maryland drivers," Fern Shen, Feb. 1, 2012

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