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Centenarian Crashes into Children: Should There Be an Age Limit for Drivers?

High profile crashes such as Wednesday's case of a 100-year-old driver plowing into a group of schoolchildren raise sticky questions about age, safety and rights.

A car driven by a 100-year-old man struck a group of elementary school children Wednesday, injuring nine children and two adults.

Paramedics took the 11 injured people to a hospital. Four of the children were seriously injured. The accident happened at a South Los Angeles elementary school just after classes let out, authorities said. Driver Preston Carter, who said he turns 101 next month, told ABC7 he was backing out of a parking lot and his brakes failed. According to the Los Angeles Times, Carter has a spotless driving record.

Investigators have not indicated that the age of the driver was a factor in the crash. 

Orange County has had a number of high profile accidents involving drivers of advanced age including a woman who accidentally accelerated onto the Balboa Island Ferry, crashing into passengers. And last year, a senior (see video).

California does not discriminate against the elderly when it comes to issuing driver’s licenses. The Department of Motor Vehicles does encourage drivers to reassess their reflexes as they grow older.

According to the department’s website, “studies show that as we all age, our reaction time slows down. And the statistics used every year by state motor vehicle departments and safety associations link reaction time with crashes.”

Is there an age at which drivers should give up the keys? Or is the danger of crashes caused by elderly drivers blown out of proportion? TELL US IN THE COMMENTS

If you or someone you know is feeling uncertain about continuing to drive, check out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration list below to see if any of the signs listed apply to your situation:

  • You feel overwhelmed by all of the signs, signals, road markings, pedestrians and vehicles that you must pay attention to at intersections.
  • You take medications that make you sleepy.
  • You often get lost or become confused.
  • You experience dizziness, seizures or loss of consciousness.
  • You aren't confident that you can handle the demands of high speeds or heavy traffic.
  • You are slow to see cars coming out of driveways and side streets or to realize that another car has slowed or stopped ahead of you.
  • You have trouble seeing lane lines and other pavement markings, curbs, medians, other vehicles and pedestrians, especially at dawn, dusk and at night.
  • Friends and family express concern for your safety behind the wheel.

—City News Service contributed to this report.

Paige Austin August 31, 2012 at 12:10 AM
From the City News Service: Los Angeles police will do a mechanical inspection of the 1990 Cadillac driven by a 100-year-old man when it plowed into a group of people near a South Los Angeles elementary school, injuring eleven children and three adults, authorities said today. The inspection will be conducted by the Motor Transport Division to determine the veracity of Preston Carter's claim that the brakes of his car failed. ``The driver of the vehicle has a valid license, insured and had no evidence of intoxication,'' police said today. ``Due to the nature of the accident the driver was referred to the Department of Motor Vehicles for re- examination.''
Paige Austin August 31, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Elizabeth, thanks for sharing your story. It's such a tough thing for a family to go through. I am so glad your dad made it easier for you by acknowledging his limitations, but it still couldn't have been an easy conversation.
v.l.h September 09, 2012 at 07:25 AM
My brother has just been killed by an elderly driver. His reaction time was just too slow. Its important to see both sides- the devastation of losing a family member and friend who was dearly loved, and the fact that many elderly people may not realise their decline in reactions etc,They also may not wish to accept it due to the thought of their freedom being taken away. You can't simply say 'my gran is 101 and drives fine' as you can have a very fit and healthy 101 year old, you can also get a 101 year old with restricted vision and an array of health problems. The only thing is a simple reassessment of driving skills after,say, 75 and then every couple of years after that. It keeps us safe AS WELL AS the elderly driver. Its not an attack on their abilities in any way as its a fact that most things/people/animals all decline healthwise with age. I think there should also be better transport provisions for the elderly who are sensible enough to give up driving due to their bad eye sight or whatever, so they wont be stuck in the house or left to carry heavy shopping bags on their own.
v.l.h September 09, 2012 at 07:29 AM
very well said!
v.l.h September 09, 2012 at 07:31 AM
Well done Debra, my brother was killed a month ago by an elderly driver as I mentioned below. It's so wonderful that you are educating your dear children on this often unmentioned risk to their health/lives. Regards

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