Sharpe James, the former mayor of Newark who served from 1986 to 2006, was involved in a car crash Saturday night according to police.

Based on available surveillance video, authorities say James drove his 2009 Silver Cadillac at slow speed head-on into another vehicle then reversed across an intersection, “nearly colliding with a NJ Transit bus and narrowly missing a pedestrian in the crosswalk, before jumping the sidewalk and pinning a male pedestrian under his car.”

And all that looks to be straight through a red light from his video.

About that pedestrian who police say was trapped underneath James’ car when they arrived?

“I saw no pedestrian and was not aware of hitting any pedestrian,” James told NJ.com.

On Monday, Newark Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara announced Sharpe James was not driving drunk. Officials say it was ruled out with a blood test at the hospital. But the case remains under investigation.

How much does that really leave? At 85 years old it may have been overdue for the former mayor to give up the car keys. O’Hara said, “At the scene, he was disoriented, incoherent.”

Eighty-five years old. Disoriented. Incoherent. Yet not driving drunk. OK, the investigation will play out, but when an elderly driver hits a car head-on at slow speed, reverses nearly into a bus, then jumps a sidewalk and hits a pedestrian without even being aware of, it is time to think about whether he should still be in possession of a driver’s license.

New Jersey continues to have absolutely no rules for elderly driver retesting. It would not only safeguard the public, it would protect the very elderly whose votes the politicians are so fearful of losing. Many elderly drivers are competent and safe well into their 90’s. Retesting isn’t to stop those who can. It’s to determine who can’t.

In the Sharpe James crash, police say all three men, the driver of the other car, the pedestrian trapped under James’ car and James himself, were sent to University Hospital. Someone could have died here, and whatever the final report reveals we cannot keep shrugging off the issue of elderly drivers.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.

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