he pressed the accelerator instead of the brakes
September 1, 2003 11:58 PM   Subscribe

California senior driver pressed the accelerator instead of the brakes ? For 2nd time in 2 months a 85-something driver hits accelerator instead of breaks, this time there where no deaths only 4 serious injuries ? What can be done about this ? Are you scared to walk down the street, afraid a senior driver might kill you ?
posted by bureaustyle (47 comments total)
So many questions and I haven't had any coffee yet...
posted by i_cola at 12:09 AM on September 2, 2003

Awright. Old people suck. They can't drive, they're incapable of learning, and they LOOOOVE to throw away comic-book collections.

Yes, I'm afraid they might kill me. I hate and fear them.
posted by interrobang at 12:17 AM on September 2, 2003

If I wasn't so drunk when I drove I'd definitely be afraid of elderly drivers.
posted by Stan Chin at 12:21 AM on September 2, 2003

This is garbage. Two automobile accidents in two months?

Fear! Shock! Horror! Whatsoever shall we do!?!

Maybe Ralph Nader can start an "Unsafe at Old-Age" euthanasia program to save us all from these Geriatric Monsters.
posted by mortisimo at 12:44 AM on September 2, 2003

Euthanasia, it's not just for unwanted pets anymore.
posted by mischief at 12:51 AM on September 2, 2003

Old people should be killed at birth.
posted by Frasermoo at 12:56 AM on September 2, 2003

Are you scared to walk down the street, afraid a senior driver might kill you ?


Now, some dickhead teen or 20-something behind the wheel, that's a different story.

Attention dickhead teen and 20-somethings: Lower the stereo. Get off the damn cell phone. Try not to be stoned. Pay attention to the sights and sounds around you.
posted by Ayn Marx at 12:59 AM on September 2, 2003

I'll tell you why seniors worry me - because I've seen them drive.

Within the first 2 years of driving you have your 'points' lowered to 6 instead of twelve (minor speeding gets you 3 points). Seniors? Nothing. The majority of senior drivers never took a driving test - it wasn't needed.

Yes, the stereo, cell and drugs will all get you points if you are caught. Not being in full control of your senses isn't. Over 70 you need a docs approval to drive, but my grandmother has been driving on docs notes for ten years when she can't fucking drive.

If anyone can tell me how to get her the hell off the road, please tell me. To get it in perspective, her last accident was driving into a toll booth and nearly writing off her car. The next day she didn't remember it had happened...
posted by twine42 at 1:05 AM on September 2, 2003

This (elderly, unsafe drivers killing/maiming others) has happened for a long time in the US, and will continue to happen. There's no way to keep them off the roads. Who gets to decide when someone is unfit to drive? How do you enforce that when so much of the US is inaccessible without a car? US citizens forgot a long time ago that driving is a privilege, not a right.

Fwiw, countries with 1) extensive public transportation, 2) strict fines for moving violations, and 3) strict driving tests may do a better job of keeping bad drivers off the streets.

In a related vein, the LA Times had a decent article on the new drunk-driving laws in Japan that were essentially passed by the force of one couple (the Inoue family) who lost their two children to a drunk driver. The lame LA Times website has broken links to the article and the search engine doesn't find the article with the full title so I'll post the relevant bits here:
The Inoues began a crusade to get drunk drivers off the road, collecting 374,000 signatures on a petition to toughen Japan's penalties. On Nov. 28, 2001, the anniversary of the accident, the Diet, or parliament, passed a law imposing a maximum prison term of 15 years for the crime of dangerous driving resulting in death. In June the following year, the government also stiffened the penalties for drunk driving, raising the maximum fine to $4,200.

And last week, a Tokyo District Court judge awarded the Inoues a record $2.1 million in a civil suit they filed against the truck driver, 59, and his employer, the Kochi Tsuun trucking company. The defendants were ordered to make the payment in annual installments on the anniversary of the daughters' deaths.
Makoto Matsumoto, an Osaka attorney, said it is uncommon for a Japanese judge to consider a person's grief or dedication to social issues. The Inoue case will have a potent deterrent effect, he believes, because it not only broadens the standard for determining compensation in a drunk driving case but also holds the employer responsible for the driver's behavior.
The toll from drunk driving has already started coming down. According to the National Police Agency's latest report on traffic safety, there were 997 fatal accidents caused by drunk drivers in Japan last year, down from 1,191 the previous year, a 16.3% drop.
While I can critique many aspects of Japanese life, the strict driving laws, the extensive public transportation, and the high costs for obtaining a license in the first place make sense to me.
posted by gen at 1:06 AM on September 2, 2003

twine42: I'd unplug the battery or the spark plugs. Or pull a fuse or three. She's obviously way beyond the age at which she should be driving.
posted by gen at 1:08 AM on September 2, 2003

I hate to respond to such a bating post, but I'd much rather see a mountain of statistics than one story.

I have no idea who is causing most of the accidents. If it isn't seniors or they aren't a hazardous risk, then I think it'd be a horrendous shame to deprive people of mobility.

If they are then perhaps we should tout one of the multitude of solutions that have been proposed on this topic since forever. Then we can figure out how to somehow manage to get it passed into law and stay as a law, since seniors do vote.

Really I feel this post is:

Bad Thing Happens!! Rare added element makes it seem significant! Vaguely related statement. Jump to conclusion. Fearmongering over vaguely related statement!
posted by rudyfink at 1:13 AM on September 2, 2003

> I'll tell you why seniors worry me - because I've seen them drive.

Me too. This isn't just about fatalities this is also about general road safety. If you think insurance is bad for the hypothetical 20-year old cell phone using stoner try paying the rate for a 70-80 year old driver. The few elderly people in my life who continue to drive scare me, I refuse to ride with them, and they get into more accidents than any group I know.

Here are some statistics from an auto insurance company. Essentially only teens are more of a liability then the elderly.
7,269 people (65 years and older) died in motor vehicle crashes in 1998 (compared to 7,236 in 1997, 36% more than in 1975). 81% of elderly fatalities were passenger vehicle occupants; 16% were pedestrians.

About half of the fatal crashes involving drivers 80 years and older occur at intersections and involve multiple vehicles, compared with 23% among drivers up to age 50.

Per mile driven, drivers 75 years and older have higher fatal crash rates than drivers in other age group except teens.

Per licensed driver, fatal crash rates rise sharply at age 70 and older.

Those 80 years and older have the highest pedestrian death rates per 100,000 people.

People 65 years and older represented about 13% of the population and about 18% of all motor vehicle deaths in 1998. By 2030, the elderly are expected to represent 20% of the population.
posted by skallas at 1:17 AM on September 2, 2003

So I guess someone could say, "then get teens off the street." Well, I think we consider them an acceptable risk because they're still learning and will become the safe 20-something driver while the elderly will only continue to deteriorate.
posted by skallas at 1:22 AM on September 2, 2003

If you're going to prevent old people from driving are you going to then highly subsidise their public transport costs, as well as upgrading public transport so it can take anyone to almost anywhere with little waiting or hassles?
posted by PenDevil at 1:23 AM on September 2, 2003

PenDevil: Public transport is already subsidized for the elderly, at least in NYC. But upgrading public transportation? Why that's "downright UnAmerican!" (snarky outburst)
posted by gen at 1:39 AM on September 2, 2003

Hmmm. My neighbour Cathy, who is 85, met me downstairs the other day. Once again when I asked her "How are you?" she launched into a tirade about how desperate things are for her at the moment, started to cry and then told me how she was giving up her licence that day.

Fact is, she's lost the plot. I had to do everything to stifle saying "Good."

Bless her cottons, she goes out in 35 degree heat in a jumper and coat and then tells me how she was 50 yards from the apartment block and didn't know where she was.

Not good for the roads.
posted by Frasermoo at 1:51 AM on September 2, 2003

I've had this argument with the aforementioned grandmother - old people have a right to drive cars because they live in the country where there is shite public transport.

Excuse me, but you're missing a point here - you chose to live in the country. The price of a house in the country could buy one twice the size in the nearest (small) town.

*sigh* Anyway, much as I'd love to argue this one, I have work to do, and I'm sure it will turn into a flamewar anyway. If anyone wants to borrow my asbestos socks then send me an email. ;)
posted by twine42 at 1:54 AM on September 2, 2003

send her to www.tesco.com

they can deliver her denture fixative and faggots from one of their out of town mega-markets conveniently placed to force me to drive past a glut of out-of-business in-town shops.

*must .... control ....... rant ....... *
posted by Frasermoo at 2:09 AM on September 2, 2003

Frasermoo, here breathe slowly and calmly into this plastic bag... ;)
posted by twine42 at 2:11 AM on September 2, 2003

PenDevil: Considering the massive subsidies that US motoring has received over the years it would be fair to subsidise public transport.

Here in the UK we have a Dial-a-ride schemes in many towns & cities and there seem to be similar schemes operating in the US.

Then again, using public money to save lives & cut down on congestion has to be the most ridiculously insane idea ever conceived. [/sarky bastard]
posted by i_cola at 2:14 AM on September 2, 2003

skallas: What do elderly people being killed while walking around have to do with anything? (you know what 'pedestrian' means, right) They're old, Things that wouldn't kill us kill them. Geez, next time try some real statistics, huh?

(for example, the number of elderly drivers at fault per elderly driver on the road compared to non-elderly). IIRC, elderly drivers are less dangerous on average then the 16-20 year old set.

More elderly people killed in accidents now then in 1970? Gee, maybe there are more old people around in general...?
posted by delmoi at 2:56 AM on September 2, 2003

Delmoi: I think the implication in the linked page is that proportionally, the over 80s cause the highest pedestrian deaths.

Here's some more stats on elderly driver accident rates compared to younger drivers. "They cause from 1.6 to 2.4 times more accidents than drivers aged 25 to 64 years. And these are generally accidents involving more than one car. By comparison, young people have more accidents in high-speed zones, but their collisions usually involve only one car."
posted by adrianhon at 3:07 AM on September 2, 2003

The problem is that, for many elderly people a vehicle is a sign of independence. Certainly, my father dreaded the day when he wouldn't be able to drive.

But the fact is that most elderly people think they are able to drive safely and only stop driving when they have an accident.
posted by quarsan at 4:04 AM on September 2, 2003

Sadly, nothing will be done about this. Something can be done about it, but nothing will.

Here in Ontario, we have graduated licensing, which limits when and where you can drive before you obtain your full license. This would be a great solution for the elderly as well, except one thing. They're the ones who turn out in droves to vote. So as you imagine, nothing will be done about it.

I was trying to find some links on graduated licensing, but google is not wanting to pull up. Sorry.
posted by robotrock at 4:25 AM on September 2, 2003

Attention dickhead teen and 20-somethings: Lower the stereo. Get off the damn cell phone. Try not to be stoned. Pay attention to the sights and sounds around you.

posted by mcsweetie at 6:03 AM on September 2, 2003

Although I can't find the article atm, another related problem is that doctors are blinded by professional secrecy and can't relay to the DMV or other driving authorities that their elderly patient is unfit to drive.
posted by ruelle at 6:10 AM on September 2, 2003

Are you scared to walk down the street, afraid a senior driver might kill you ?

yup. almost as scared as i am that a terrorist willl crash a plane into me.
posted by quonsar at 6:25 AM on September 2, 2003

my father is getting up there in age and although he used to be one of the most careful drivers i know, i'm now afraid to ride with him. funny thing is, he'll be the first to admit that his driving is bad.

i believe that senior drivers are a definite problem (at least in the us), but the solution is complicated. unless... well, unless we mimick logan's run! i think they were onto something.
posted by poopy at 6:35 AM on September 2, 2003

I'm just glad all those shark attacks and kidnappings have stopped.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:39 AM on September 2, 2003

dammit PinkStainlessTail! now i have to clean off my monitor!
posted by poopy at 6:44 AM on September 2, 2003

I don't think many people would argue that elderly drivers should be regulated more carefully than middle-aged ones. The difficulty is things like the patient confidentiality as ruelle pointed out, and the fact that many of the elderly will fight it - most of them have a "don't pick on me, MY driving is fine" attitude. And yeah, they're the gray panther of voters.

I can feel for them though. My dad turned 65 on August 31st. He's a trucker, loves his job, and he doesn't want to retire. The company he works for has both a phenomenal safety record and a sensible policy on such things. They have a hard time getting and keeping drivers - high turnover because everyone hates being away from home all the time and they only take people with a spotless driver's abstract and no criminal record, which shrinks their employment pool by a LOT. So they don't want to lose any good drivers. My dad just has to do written and road tests annually from now on. All very well, and he would quit on his own if he knew he wasn't a safe driver - but retiring is the last thing he wants to do and he was worried sick about it, couldn't eat or sleep well.
posted by orange swan at 6:44 AM on September 2, 2003

[...]doctors are blinded by professional secrecy and can't relay to the DMV or other driving authorities that their elderly patient is unfit to drive.

Patient privacy goes out the window when the safety of others is involved. For example, there have been successful lawsuits against psychiatrists who were treating patients who made threats against third parties, and later actually murdered the third party, when the psychiatrist did not make a good faith effort to warn the potential victim or notify the police.

As far as notifying the DMV, laws vary from state to state. Here in PA, physicians are required to notify the DMV if the patient is unsafe to drive for any medical reason. This includes poorly controlled seizures, uncorrectable vision problems, chronic alcohol abuse, poorly controlled diabetes, narcolepsy, stroke with significant weakness, Alzheimer's disease, or any other medical issue that would impair driving.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:46 AM on September 2, 2003

> If anyone can tell me how to get her the hell off the road,
> please tell me.

Drive her around yourself. You are your grandmother's keeper.
posted by jfuller at 7:11 AM on September 2, 2003

And why is Romanesko so obsessed with these stories?
posted by briank at 8:59 AM on September 2, 2003

I follow these stories on Obscure Store as well, so I don't get the FPP shock over two incidents in two months--stuff like this is happening daily.

Growing up, I remember having to be in a car with my grandfather, who was in his 70s. It was quite scary. If he saw a teenage girl on the side of the road, our car would swerve into oncoming traffic. He and my grandmother were in car accidents often and always blamed the other guy.

I doubt we'll see any change, as we're coming upon the aging of the 'all for me' boomer generation who, as per usual, will expect the rest of the world to change to accommodate their expectations. The guys who brought us Net Nanny (because I shouldn't be expected to supervise my children) will offer up something like padded ElderLanes to replace the commuter ones.
posted by troybob at 9:59 AM on September 2, 2003

I wonder if these accidents would be worse if the fogeys were driving SUVs instead of Cadillacs.
posted by crunchland at 10:37 AM on September 2, 2003

I wonder if these accidents would be worse if the fogeys were driving SUVs instead of Cadillacs.

What about Cadillac's SUV, the utterly ludicrous Escalade (drivers of which have almost run into me on three separate occasions)? I can't begin to imagine the carnage...
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:55 AM on September 2, 2003

Here in Ontario, we have graduated licensing
Working in US retail, remember seeing various Canadian Providence's driver license, besides no picture it had a very long expiration date, way past the date I would think the person I was I'ding would live too. Recall one old man whose DL was to expire in 2050.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:07 AM on September 2, 2003

Crunchland, the day might come when an grandmother with an Hummer kills more people than an overage terrorist.

88-year old woman's string of crashes kills 2. She hit two cars and stopped. When a bystander asked if she was OK, she stepped on the gas again...

What can be done about elderly drivers ? Let's see, after 65 everybody should do an annual driving as well as written test, some form of computer simulator at your local DMV office to test your reflexes in critical situations (something like army pilots train on) would do. People who fail to pass this tests can either call a cab or ride a bus or ask their friends to give them a ride. And these tests should be paid by the drivers, not taxpayers since we are already paying for way too much crap like that.
posted by bureaustyle at 11:10 AM on September 2, 2003

after 65?

Personally I think we _all_ ought to take a driving test every 5 years.

The government would love it - just think of all the retest fees...
posted by twine42 at 11:16 AM on September 2, 2003

I tend to believe that it's way too easy to get a license, regardless of your age. There are far too many idiots out there driving that have no business being in a car. People may whine that you need to be able to drive in the US because of the lack of public transportation, but my response to that is then you should learn to drive properly.

I also believe that people driving suv's should be required to show that they know how to handle them (because they really don't handle like cars), and that it should be a separate endorsement on the license. (And I say that as an SUV driver).

The current "tests" required to get a license (at least here in michigan) are a joke (and it truly frightens me that some people really do fail them). I've consistantly missed one question on the test every time I've had to take it, and I'm firmly convinced it's because there's one question that has two right answers, just so they can tell you you didn't get them all right.

And folks, you know those things called turn signals? Use them when you change lanes. I know it's hard to move the little lever that much, but do try. And just because you happen to be on a college campus (such as where I work), does not mean that all roads are parking lots, giving you the right to just randomly stop and let people in and out of the car. Find a parking lot and do it there, even if it means, god forbid, that the person has to walk a tad bit farther.
posted by piper28 at 12:51 PM on September 2, 2003

You all wouldn't be so shocked about accidents like this if you lived in South Florida.
posted by bshort at 1:12 PM on September 2, 2003

I tend to believe that it's way too easy to get a license, regardless of your age.

I agree. At the minimum, they should require some sort of a vehicle dynamics / skidpad course so each driver knows how to handle a car at and over the limit.
posted by gyc at 1:31 PM on September 2, 2003

Definitely way too easy to get a license in the U.S. When I got my driver's license [in GA], I didn't even have to leave the parking lot for the drivers test. Ridiculous.

As to the idea that driving is a right in the US since we don't have good public transportation - nobody told that to poor people. I know a lot of people who can't afford a car [or, more likely, the insurance required to drive one]. Nobody is waiving the insurance requirement because they "have" to drive, even in areas with no public transportation. I see no reason why someone who is impaired [not all older people are, but some are] should be allowed to endanger others, regardless of the state of public transportation.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:05 PM on September 2, 2003

I ride a motorcycle. Everyone scares the bejeezus out of me.

My wife was just run over by a new driver. It could just as easily have been an old driver, or a middle-aged driver.

I'd like to see (A) mandatory driver training, (B) re-testing every five years.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:07 PM on September 2, 2003

If anyone can tell me how to get her the hell off the road, please tell me.

Granny's gotta sleep sometime. Take the keys. If she's truly unwilling to listen to reason and the concerns of her loved ones and her doctor, someone's gotta get proactive and worry about safety over and above her feelings.

And the same goes for all of our grandmas, grandpas and even our parents.
posted by Dreama at 6:55 PM on September 2, 2003

i'm going now, to, um, that, uh place, where we keep the bed thingy and the tv.
posted by quonsar at 1:46 AM on September 3, 2003

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