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Elderly Driver Had License Revoked, Then Reinstated

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An elderly driver involved in a fatal crash had previously lost his license and then been re-certified, suggesting a flurry of recent legislative proposals to require increased reviews for older operators may not be a cure-all.

Registry of Motor Vehicles records released Wednesday show 83-year-old Joseph Casey of Malden, involved in a crash Tuesday, had his license revoked for medical reasons after a surchargable accident in February 2004. It was reinstated in September 2004, after he participated in a driver retraining program, did road work with a certified driving instructor and received medical clearance.

He also not only passed a road test at the time, but had his license renewed last November after passing a mandatory eye test at the Registry. That is the type of in-person review for elderly drivers that some suggest should be expanded following a spate of recent accidents, another of which also was fatal.

"What it says is it is a one-day snapshot of a person's ability out of 365 days in a year," RMV spokeswoman Ann Dufresne said of eye and driving tests.

Dufresne said Casey's record underscored the reasons Registrar Rachel Kaprelian favors a comprehensive approach to elderly driving, possibly including more frequent written and road tests, as well as medical evaluations.

Police say Casey was driving about midday Tuesday when his car collided with another vehicle at an intersection in Woburn. A passenger in Casey's vehicle, his 84-year-old wife, Katherine, died early Wednesday at Lahey Clinic.

The driver of the other car, identified only as a 77-year-old woman from Woburn, was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital.

State lawmakers have held two hearings this month on roughly 40 bills proposing changes in the treatment of elderly drivers. The most prominent among them, filed by Sen. Brian Joyce, D-Milton, would require vision and road retesting every five years once drivers reach age 85.

Joyce has suggested he would support even earlier accelerated testing, but he proposed 85 years as a starting point. Under current law, once a driver is licensed as early as at 161/2 years, they need only have their eyes checked every five years to retain their license.

Casey's driving record shows a surchargable accident in Malden in October 1997, followed by an incident in Reading in February 2004 that led to his first license revocation.

He was involved in a surchargable accident - meaning there was more than $1,000 in damage, or he was more than 50 percent at fault - and also was cited for speeding and failure to keep right. The records appear to indicate that Reading police recommended his license be immediately revoked for medical reasons, which the Registry granted.

Dufresne said the Registry typically requires that someone who loses a license for medical reasons get a medical clearance certificate from their doctor and present it to a hearing officer.

She said records show Casey entered a program at New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Woburn - which requires such a certificate - and requested a learner's permit to participate in road-training. The program also includes a medical evaluation.

Casey received his permit in May 2004 and was subsequently re-licensed in September 2004.

The records show Casey had another surchargable accident 15 months later, in November 2005. They also show he passed his mandatory five-year eye test in November 2008.

His license has since been revoked for a second time, with Registry officials citing an "immediate threat."

This program aired on July 1, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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