Driven to distraction

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 8, 2005

Sam Callis has attended Suffolk City Council meetings for years, freely offering city leaders his acidic opinions on local government.

He’s a regular at Bunny’s Restaurant for early morning breakfasts.

He’s an active member of the Eastover-Wilroy Ruritans, the Moose Lodge, Sports Club in Portsmouth and a 70-year member of Woodmen of the World.

Email newsletter signup

But that active life came to a screeching halt for the 86-year-old Sleepy Hole Road man on Thursday when the state Division of Motor Vehicles, in a surprise move, confiscated Callis’ driver’s license.

&uot;I’ve never been in a wreck in 70 years of driving, and I’ve lived here for the last 46 of those years,&uot; said Callis. &uot;I’ve never been treated more like a criminal in my life.&uot;

The past three months have been a bureaucratic nightmare for Callis, since he was stopped by Suffolk Police on May 2 and ticketed for impeding traffic, driving too far under the speed limit.

&uot;I was coming back home from buying plants in Driver,&uot; said Callis, &uot;and just before the high school (Nansemond River) he pulled me over, and kept me there for 30 minutes, all for impeding traffic, for going 25 in a 45 mile per hour zone.&uot;

&uot;That was the first time I’d ever heard of it (impeding traffic).

But we went to court and my lawyer won the case,&uot; said Callis.

The summons was dismissed from court on June 13 and Callis paid nothing except for the fee for his lawyer.

Despite his legal vindication, the wheels had been put in motion by someone to get Callis off the road.

On June 21,

he received a document from the state DMV requiring him to undergo a pair of medical tests by Aug. 1 designed to ascertain his capacity to safely operate a motor vehicle. If he did not submit to the tests, his license would be suspended.

So Callis took vision and medical tests, as well as a driving test. He received a letter July 20 which stated the test results were acceptable.

&uot;We thought it was all over and then here comes that letter from Richmond,&uot; said Callis.

In July 2004, General Assembly bills went into effect that required all drivers 80 and over to pass a vision screening when renewing a driver’s license.

The state also has a medical review process that begins when an elderly driver is reported to the state via someone filing a report.

Reports can be turned in by anyone and the state DMV gathers reports by mail or e-mail.

DMV officials would not comment on a specific, ongoing case, but spokeswoman Marcia Meredith said, &uot;If anybody is determined to have a medical or physical problem that might impair them from driving, we then begin this medical review process.&uot;

The review process entails a medical statement from a physician, a vision statement, passing the two-part knowledge exam, and passing a road skills test.

Once the DMV has sufficient data, it can decide to suspend or restrict driving privileges, require another driver evaluation, or require further periodic medical and vision reports.

On Thursday, Callis went to the Suffolk DMV to take a test he was originally scheduled to take a week ago, but missed due to illness.

Upon arriving at the DMV, the office could find no record that Callis was supposed to take the test to begin with.

After waiting for an hour and a half, Callis was finally told Richmond had informed the Suffolk DMV to take his license from him, with or without a new test.

His license was taken literally out of his hand.

&uot;She asked to see my license,&uot; said Callis, &uot;she took it and then informed me Richmond had told them to suspend my license, and she took it from me.&uot;

&uot;I wanted to stick my fist down her mouth all the way to my elbow,&uot; said Callis, &uot;I don’t think a man should have his license taken from him like that.&uot;

Callis said he thought only a judge had the authority to take such an action.

For now, Callis is off the road and can’t go anywhere unless someone drives him.

His son took him to Bunny’s Friday and Saturday for breakfast and two friends from Portsmouth visited him Friday evening and took him out to dinner. The rest of the time, he has stayed at home.

He missed his Moose Lodge meeting Friday night – he’s been a member for 60 years, and guesses he will miss his Monday night Woodmen meeting, where he serves as club president.

&uot;It just gets by me,

you know?&uot; he said. &uot;I try to live a good life, stay out of trouble and I’ve always done service things, stayed active in clubs, and I just don’t get in trouble. But I think something needs to be done about this kind of mess.