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Is it time for stricter rules for elderly drivers? Deadly crash sparks tough conversation

Posted at 10:43 PM, Feb 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-10 01:09:31-05

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. -- It’s a story that rocked the St. Lucie County community: Two teenagers killed in a crash caused by an elderly driver behind the wheel of an RV.

The story hit especially close to home for one local woman, Corinne Fredrick, who survived a very similar crash on the same roadway, at the same time of day 15 years ago.

She learned about the death of 17-year-old Britney Poindexter and 18-year-old Santia Feketa Wednesday morning. The girls were driving east on Okeechobee Road when 98-year-old Walter Roney, with one passenger, was driving the wrong way on the road, crashing into the girls’ truck. Investigators also believe his headlights were not functioning properly.

“I woke up and opened my Facebook and saw the horror of this story splashed across my news feed. I was immediately brought to tears,” Fredrick said.

She remembered a crash she survived in 2003. She was 13-years-old and in the passenger seat of a car, driving home from a horse show.

“We were headed eastbound on Okeechobee road… and all of a sudden, we realized that there was a woman heading the wrong way and headed right at us,” Fredrick said. That woman was 97-years- old.

The driver of her car tried to swerve out of the way, but their car collided with the elderly woman who died on scene.

Fredrick suffered a brain injury, and still lives with short term memory issues.

Hearing of the death of two teens revived her desire to spark change.

“When I was 13 and this accident happened, I couldn’t speak up for myself and ask for legislative change to happen,” Fredrick said. Now, she wants to change that.

She is trying to drum up an effort to put stricter rules on the books for elderly drivers in Florida.

Roney recently passed a driving proficiency test in his home state of Michigan, according to investigators, and was in good health for his age.

But, Fredrick knows there is still room for improvement, saying Florida only requires drivers over 80 to take proficiency tests every six years.

She would like to see testing begin at 65-years-old in broader time frames, becoming more frequent by 75-years-old, and then annually by 80-years-old.

“The deterioration that people see from 65 to 75 is significant but 75 to 80 and onward, everything changes monthly, let alone, yearly,” Fredrick said.

But, she knows the idea would come with challenges.

She knows more alternate transportation options would need to be explored for the elderly to make it easier on them to hand over their keys.

She also believes there should be special licenses or permits to drive large RV’s like the one Roney was driving.

“It’s time that I do what I can to protect those that don’t have a voice anymore and to protect those in the future.”

She hopes to meet with county commissioners, and ultimately, carry their message to the state.