Elderly woman drives through a loophole

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by BYRON HARRIS

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WFAA

Posted on July 31, 2013 at 9:53 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 1 at 9:53 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

An 83-year-old woman drives the wrong way onto a busy freeway.

She hits a man on a motorcycle head-on, nearly killing him.

Last week, a Parker County jury delivered a verdict of more than $5 million in a civil suit connected to this case.

But Vernell Ingram still has her driver's license, which may indicate holes in Texas law.

In a video deposition, Ingram testified the accident never happened.

"Read my lips," she said. "I don't remember. I put it out of my mind. I've tried to keep some of this off of my mind."

Photographs and witnesses convinced the jury otherwise.

They decided she drove the wrong way down an off-ramp of Interstate 20 in 2010 and hit Jerry Wall, who was riding a motorcycle, head-on.

Miraculously, he survived. But one leg had to be amputated below the knee; both femurs and his pelvis were fractured; and he suffered a broken arm and a punctured lung.

Wall is not a vindictive man, but he wants Texas law changed because Ms. Ingram is still driving, despite have failed four driving tests.

After her collision with Wall, she was ordered to take a driver's test. She failed four times, while still retaining her license.

On her fifth try in three months, she passed. But even then, the examiner noted she had problems with awareness and braking skills.

"In her case, she'd had multiple accidents before this devastating accident," said Wall's attorney Brad Kizzia, pointing out that she had had an accident the year she hit Wall, although no one was hurt that time.

"The woman that hit me was able to take the test five times before she passed and received her license back, and is driving today in the same car that hit me," Wall said.

"There may need to be some kind of a limit," Kizzia added. "Three strikes and you're out. If there were three strikes and if it were the law in Texas, she would not be driving right now."

Ms. Ingram shows no signs of relinquishing her license, nor does she plan to pay her share of the $5 million verdict.

She still denies that she hit Jerry Wall, even though repair records indicate her repair shop scraped off his flesh and blood from the front of her car.

The Texas Department of Public Safety requires anyone between the ages of 79 and 84 to renew a license in person. That license expires in six years.

If you are over 79, you must take a vision test during the renewal. A driving test is required only if it is suspected you may not be safely able to drive.

The regulations change at age 85, when renewals must occur every two years.

Twenty-one states have no additional rules for older drivers.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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