The family of the 81-year-old driver charged with hitting and killing a Denver boy told police last year that she had issues driving after she’d been in another wreck and left the scene.
Crashes like the one last Wednesday that took the life of 14-year-old Cole Sukle have sparked discussion about imposing new requirements on older drivers – but they have not led to new legislation. As a result, Colorado law imposes no additional testing requirements on older drivers.
Denver police identified the woman suspected in last week’s fatal crash as Pat Livingston, a longtime trustee at the University of Denver who retired last month after 32 years on the board. She faces a charge of careless driving resulting in death.
But a 9Wants To Know investigation found that wasn’t the first time she’d been in a crash and drove off.
According to a Denver police report obtained by 9NEWS, Livingston “drove carelessly” last October and crashed into another car while it was stopped in traffic. She left the scene without calling police or exchanging information.
After the crash last October, according to the report, Livingston’s family told police she was “beginning to have issues driving ... they [the family] have taken steps to hire her a driver so this will not be an issue in the future.”
The driver Livingston hit didn’t want to press charges in the case as “as the driver was an elderly female.” As a result, she was not ticketed.
Last week’s accident happened, according to Denver police, as Livingston was swerving in and out of traffic in her Audi and failed to negotiate a curve, hitting Sukle and a friend as they stood on the sidewalk and bike lane near the intersection of East Yale Avenue and South Madison Street in South Denver. Livingston kept driving for several blocks, stopping only after her car crashed into a creek in a nearby park.
Sukle died the next day.
“Cole was an awesome kid, he was an awesome guy,” his father, Mike Sukle, told 9NEWS. “He was the center of all his friends, just loved all his friends, was a jokester and funny little kid, liked to laugh and loved sports. He was a good kid.”
A friend who was with Sukle, 13-year-old Jack Mahoney, was also injured.
"Jack's doing well," his father, Bo Mahoney, said. "He's recovering physically, his scrapes and bruises are healing, he's just got a little bit of a limp. But if you didn't know better, you wouldn't know he was in a wreck, nearly killed less than a week ago."
Though the physical injuries will heal, losing a friend will prove much harder.
"He shared with me 'dad, I wake up in the middle of the road with my bike on top of me. I look over and see my best friend in the pool of blood,'" Bo Mahoney said. "That's some heavy stuff for anyone."
Livingston has been hospitalized.
Her family hired a public relations firm to speak on their behalf during the criminal case.
Spokesman Andy Boian told 9Wants To Know that after the October incident the family had a conversation with Livingston about her driving. There were talks about taking away her keys, but she felt she could drive herself short distances, Boian said.
“The family believed she was most vulnerable at night and while driving on the highway. The son and the grandson took over driving her at night, on the highway and on the weekends. Since October, son and grandson split the time driving her on a regular basis,” Boian said.
The family said Livingston appeared when ordered by police after the original incident. The grandson followed up with officers about the crash and the state of Livingston’s driving.
“The family continues to grapple with the fact this happened and they grieve with the Sukle family,” Boian said.
"I would like to see something done to get her off the road and to send a message 'hey, if your mom and dad, your elderly relatives are in question, do something now, because if you don't, there's a price to pay for that,'" Bo Mahoney said.
An earlier crash involving an elderly driver led to public calls for new requirements for motorists of a certain age.
In that case, 89-year-old O’Grady Wheetley drove the wrong way on E-470, smashing head-on into a car driven by Grier Laughlin, 37. Wheetley and Laughlin died in the Feb. 20, 2011, collision.
But no new law was introduced in the state legislature, which means there are no new testing requirements for older drivers.
Once motorists reach age 66, a new requirement kicks in. At that point, they can’t renew their licenses online and can do it through the mail only if they provide a doctor’s or optometrist’s certification that they had passed an eye exam sometime in the previous six months.
Motorists involved in two crashes in three years, or in fatal accidents, are required to take a driving test before they can renew their licenses.
DMV employees, family members, medical professionals and law officers can also request that a motorist take a driving test before renewing his or her license.
More than 10 percent of the 3.9 million licensed drivers in Colorado are 70 or older, according to the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles.
A transportation safety fair is being held on Sept. 9 with the Colorado Department of Transportation.
WHERE: Seniors' Resource Center, 3227 Chase Street, Denver, CO 80212
WHEN: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
DATE: Sept. 9, 2016
The Denver Regional Mobility and Access Council has produced a "Getting There" guide for older drivers. You can find that here: http://bit.ly/29WO0g3
AARP offers safe driving courses targeted at older drivers. To find a class near you, go to: http://bit.ly/1asUKgL