BALTIMORE, AUG. 17 -- A 367-pound motorist accused of being too large to drive safely without special equipment, passed a Maryland driving test today and charged that police had discriminated against her.
"I'm legal, guys. . . . I feel great!" shouted Regina Elizabeth Guy, 25, to reporters and a group of cheering supporters after completing the road test in an aging blue Dodge Aspen at the state Motor Vehicle Administration test track in Glen Burnie.
"She did well," said MVA examiner Linda Plsek, who rode with Guy during the nine-minute test.
Guy's struggle to retain her driver's license, which has drawn national attention and the aid of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, would not have happened at all, she said, but for local police singling her out during a routine traffic stop "because I'm fat."
" 'Fat' is not a four-letter word," said Guy, who says she prefers that term to "overweight" or "obese."
"We are human beings like everybody else," she said.
It all began more than a month ago when she was stopped by Maryland Toll Facilities Police officer Lewis W. Whitt for having the high beams of her headlights on as she drove a friend's 1978 Pontiac station wagon into the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. She also was ticketed for driving with an expired vehicle registration.
That was the night of July 13. Three weeks later, she received an additional citation saying that because of her size, "she was unable to sit behind the wheel of her vehicle" and "was using her left foot to control the pedals."
Police recommended that she be required to drive only in a car with "special equipment." That could mean a hand-controlled accelerator and brakes, costing $600 to $1,000, according to Guy's attorney, Christopher P. Brown.
Guy was ordered to attend a MVA hearing today in suburban Essex. In a closed session, administrative hearing officer Edward F. McGinty directed her to take the standard Maryland driving test -- the same one she passed to get her license in January 1989 -- to see whether she was still able to handle a car properly. She says her weight has not changed substantially since 1989.
With Brown at her side, Guy went to MVA headquarters in nearby Glen Burnie this afternoon. She waited her turn. And then with a squadron of reporters, photographers and supporters watching from the sidelines, she squeezed in behind the steering wheel of the Dodge Aspen borrowed from a friend and began the road test on a concrete course behind MVA headquarters, negotiating traffic lights and stop signs and parallel parking.
She sat on the left side of the front seat and appeared to use her right foot on the accelerator and brakes.
Smiling, she returned to the starting point and gave the thumbs-up sign. She had passed.
Brown said it all could have been avoided, except that police singled Guy out "because of her size. . . . The underlying assumption is that if you're fat, you're incompetent."
Police deny the charge. "Our officers do not discriminate," said Pete Blechinger, Toll Facilities Police spokesman. " . . . There are always judgment calls and matters of perception that officers are required to make. . . . Our officers always aspire to the highest conduct, and I'm sure this was no exception."
Whitt, who did not appear at today's hearing, could not be reached for comment.
Guy, a nursing assistant who lives in east Baltimore, has been drawn into a swirl of national media attention. She appeared on the "CBS This Morning" show Tuesday in New York and says she's been asked to be on Oprah Winfrey's show Aug. 28 in Chicago.
The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, a 2,200-member organization based in Sacramento, Calif., is holding its annual convention in Chicago next week and is helping Winfrey's producers put together a "size-discrimination" show, said Sally E. Smith, the association's executive director.
Guy, who says she has received one speeding ticket and another for reckless driving since 1989, does not own a car but is planning to buy one soon.