• Fri October 30 2009
  • Posted Oct 30, 2009
Winterset, IA Paul "Jud" McKinney, 80, who was facing charges stemming from the August hit-and-run death of a bicyclist, apparently committed suicide Friday morning at his home in Winterset, local authorities confirmed. About a dozen fire and emergency workers responded to a carbon monoxide alarm shortly after 9 a.m. today at McKinney's home at 9th and Jefferson streets. McKinney, who suffered from macular degeneration, a deterioration of his eyesight, was scheduled to attend a pre-trial court hearing Nov. 17. He faced charges of leaving the scene of an accident, obstruction of prosecution by destruction of evidence and failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle in connection with the fatal accident in Warren County. McKinney was released from jail in September. He was accused of killing Mark Grgurich, 54, on Aug. 30. Police have said that a surveillance photograph of the truck McKinney allegedly was driving at the time of the accident helped identify him as a suspect in the case. Both an Iowa Department of Transportation official and McKinney's sister said McKinney had vision problems, including being unable to see out of his left eye. The high-profile death raised the issue of older-driver safety this summer. Iowa ranks fifth nationally in its population of people age 65 and over. The percentage of these older Iowans is projected to increase from almost 15 percent now to 22 percent of Iowa's population by 2030, state officials said. In 54 of Iowa's 99 counties, at least 20 percent of the licensed drivers are already in the 65-plus age group, DOT officials said. Drivers ages 85, 75 and 65, respectively, represent Iowa's fastest, second-fastest and third-fastest-growing groups of drivers. When compared with other states, Iowa has tended to take a middle-ground approach to requirements for older drivers. Starting at age 70, Iowans must renew their licenses every two years, instead of every five years. All renewals are done in person, and a vision screening is required. Iowa doesn't require a road test for older drivers or require them to be checked by doctors to determine their medical fitness, but such exams can be requested if there is reason to believe they're warranted, said Kim Snook, director of the Iowa DOT's Office of Driver Services. Simply requiring older people to appear in person for license renewals - as opposed to renewing by mail or electronic methods - is linked to significantly lower fatality rates among the oldest drivers, according to study results reported in 2004 by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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