Despite failed driving tests and accident, elderly TX woman stays behind wheel

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by BYRON HARRIS

WFAA

Posted on August 2, 2013 at 2:59 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 2 at 2:59 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

How can 83-year-old Vernell Ingram be driving?

After she nearly killed motorcyclist Jerry Wall as she went down an exit ramp the wrong way in 2010, a police officer immediately wrote DPS a letter saying she was unfit to drive.

It took DPS 30 days to write Ingram a letter ordering her to take a driving test, and another 30 days for her to show up at the Department of Public Safety (DPS) office in Weatherford.

There, she proceeded to flunk the test once a week for the next four weeks.

Officers noted that during her tests, she:

  • Ran over a pole
  • Turned left from the right-hand lane
  • Straddled the yellow line
  • Ran past almost all stop signs before stopping

She continued driving despite her failures, until she passed on a fifth try, but even on that test she was marked "unsatisfactory" in braking.

"Under section the Texas Transportation Code - section 521 - the law clearly states 'The DPS shall revoke a license when one fails an examination,'" Richard Bolka said. "That's the way I read it."

Bolka knows the law. He helped change it.

After his daughter, Katie, was killed by a 90-year-old driver who ran a red light in 2006, he and his wife, Johna, fought to stiffen licensing regulations in Texas. They maintain a website to encourage changes in legislation and the state and national level.

Kaite's Law, which passed six years ago, requires Texas drivers over 79 to physically report to DPS to get their drivers license. But they don't necessarily have to take a driving test.

That rests with the discretion of the examining officer. And their license, if they get one, is still good for six years -- well into their 80s.

The Bolkas say not only the DPS, but families, have a responsibility to police elderly drivers.

Ingram had four accidents in the decade before she hit Jerry Wall.

"Why wasn't the family there to know this woman had been in accidents before?" Richard Bolka said. "It was the same case with the woman who killed our daughter. The woman that killed our daughter had also been in some accidents."

The DPS will not talk about this case. It says drivers can retake the test as often as they want.

The question remains how Ingram could have remained on the road during her four failures.

Her attorney says she hasn't had an accident since she hit Jerry Wall 29 months ago. And her driving has been approved by DPS.

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