News


Driver in Palo Alto car crash ordered to retest for license

Man has five days to complete exam or risk suspension of his license

The elderly driver who accelerated onto a downtown Palo Alto sidewalk Thursday, leaving five people injured, has been notified that he must take an emergency re-examination with the Department of Motor Vehicles, Palo Alto police Lt. Zach Perron said Saturday.

The driver, a man in his 90s from San Jose, was trying to parallel park during the busy lunch hour outside University Cafe when he accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake. He struck people sitting at tables outside the restaurant along University Avenue and one person walking.

Perron said that he has five days to pass a driving test with the DMV or else his license will be suspended.

"An emergency re-examination with DMV is a routine procedure when we have concerns about someone's ability to operate a vehicle safely," Perron said.

Two of the people who were injured, one critically, required surgery: a man in his 30s who sustained injuries to his lower legs and a second man in his 70s whose legs and back were injured, according to police. The other seated cafe patrons, a woman in her 60s and a man in his 20s, sustained abrasions and scrapes to various locations on their bodies. The fifth injured person, a man in his 30s, was walking by the cafe when he was struck. He sustained a laceration to his head, police said.

The driver had an abrasion on one of his arms, likely due to airbag deployment, according to police.

No further updates on the victims' conditions were available Saturday.

Police Agent Marianna Villaescusa said Thursday that it can take up to 30 days to complete an investigation of such an incident, but that with statements from the cooperative driver and many witnesses, it could be quicker.

Related stories:

In wake of accident, a call for forum on seniors and driving safety

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 2, 2014 at 7:38 pm

Retired Teacher is a registered user.

I'd really like to know why this call for an emergency license retest didn't happen with Mr. Nelson who injured a child severely in Menlo Park a while ago. We don't know who caused this Palo Alto accident, but we do know that Mr. Nelson is a retired judge. Is there a double standard here?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TheRealTroy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 3, 2014 at 12:43 am

Reply to "Retired Teacher" He obviously hit someone who has a family with money or power. Welcome to Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 3, 2014 at 10:24 am

IMHO - every driver involved in an at-fault collision should be required to retake their full drivers license test before they can drive again. Regardless of age.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 3, 2014 at 11:15 am

@retired teacher - Perhaps the Palo Alto police are more stringent about this than the Menlo Park police. The requirement for an emergency retake is kind-of a "of course" to me.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 3, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Bru is a registered user.

Well, what will it prove if he passes?

What does it say if he fails?

The driver in Menlo Park who hit those kids was probably politically connected. Anyone know how they are doing?

I would in fact say that the norm should be after an accident like this driving privileges should be revoked until a test is passed. The DMV should make a priority for that, but if there is a problem with someone's driving then they need NOT to be driving until it is determined they are OK to drive. Even if they can pass a test, if there is some other problem or indication that they cannot drive or just do not respect the laws there needs to be some path to revoke a license. Why should the public have to wait until there is actual damage?

Why are so many things that are "no-brainers" not implemented ... it makes it look like our government and laws have NO BRAINS?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kludged
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 4, 2014 at 7:28 am

@bru, I happy he's getting tested, regardless of whether his license is automatically revokes before or after the test. We just removed a car from my 90 year old mother and it was a painful experience. She BARELY passed her written test two years ago, it took several attempts, and she and her children knew she could never pass the written test again. This process of dis-empowering older drivers is hard and requires outside intervention like the DMV. I might suggest that driver over 85 have to pass written exams every two years and face a drivers road test every four. This would help families with loved one who are drivers transition their older drivers off the road.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PA Parker
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 4, 2014 at 8:04 am

Wouldn't it be a good idea for PA Weekly to cover up the license plate of the driver's car in online photos? The local TV stations did this--seems to me the paper is opening itself up to legal issues?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 4, 2014 at 8:31 am

Bad Palo Alto SUV accident on Lytton detailed today in the San Francisco Chronicle. Will the at-fault driver be tested?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2014 at 8:51 am

The Menlo Park driver was rich, could afford a good neighbor and was politically connected. The driver from San Jose not so much, hence the retesting.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2014 at 9:09 am

I support an expanded testing program, but we need to keep in mind that it is very resource-intensive. Expanding it too much would totally overwhelm the DMV and require a massive expansion of their facilities and workforce, at great cost.

In addition to testing, we need to greatly raise our fine schedule to let people know that violating the law while driving is a serious matter. The driver in Menlo Park could only be cited for driving on the sidewalk, which carries a $25 fine. What message does that send to drivers? Running a red light costs less than littering, which implies that it is a trivial offense. Until people know that violations will cost them dearly they will not have any serious motivation to behave.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2014 at 9:24 am

Safer streets are worth the price. Cars cost tens of thousands of dollars and gasoline costs thousands of dollars per year on top of that. Drivers should be willing to pay a tiny fraction of that amount for safer streets, including more rigorous traffic law enforcement and driver testing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andy
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 4, 2014 at 10:12 am

When I moved to Palo Alto a few years ago and got my first California driver's license, I was shocked at the people getting license renewals at the DMV. The worst case was at the Redwood City DMV where a worker congratulated a man on passing his exam. The man could not hear the worker, and had difficulty understanding what was said when he did hear (or at least had difficulty forming/delivering his response).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Every few weeks or so
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 4, 2014 at 10:28 am

Following this paper regularly, it is clear that most all drivers in this town should have to re-take their driving test.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 4, 2014 at 10:52 am

Sounds like a lot of age discrimination going on here among the commentors.

Let's re-test 50 % at random, regardless of age, and see how many pass


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2014 at 11:00 am

Two SUVs in downtown Palo Alto collided this weekend, causing one to rollover. Fortunately, no pedestrians were hurt, but several car occupants were hospitalized with minor injuries. Why is downtown Palo Alto such a dangerous place, even in broad daylight? What can we do to make the streets safer?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2014 at 11:00 am

The problem with retesting is that many drivers, young and old, can pass a driving test and obey all the rules during the test while the examiner is sitting in the passenger seat. When they drive without that kind of supervision, so many drivers ignore many road rules and drive recklessly for various reasons having to do with their personality, character, regard, or lack of regard for other people's lives, etc. Catching these drivers and getting them off the road is the real challenge. There are many drivers who can easily pass the most rigorous driving test but should absolutely not allowed to drive a car.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto native
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2014 at 11:18 am

Retired Teacher, Mr. Nelson of the Menlo Park accident is a retired attorney, not a judge- he hasn't practiced since 2001. Highly unlikely he had the kind of pull to influence the retest decision. I have a family member who was hit by an elderly person. It was up to the investigating police officers to require a retest, and apparently they rarely do it. I was told that when an elderly person has a multiple point accident, and is issued any sort of a citation, the DMV will usually award enough points to suspend their license regardless, so the officers rarely ask for a retest. This driver must have truly seemed incapacitated for this type of reaction.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2014 at 11:30 am

You folks who want to do all this testing do realize it costs more in taxes or fees to keep all those DMV personal employed? Regulation in all its forms costs money to provide benefits.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Retest...then what?
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 4, 2014 at 11:31 am

While I am glad to see this driver retested--for his safety and the safety of others, what does this mean for the driver...and others who are aging out of driving ability?

We need more alternative transportation options so that elderly folks can get around after they can no longer drive. This is also important for others who cannot drive: kids too young to get a license, disabled folks who can't drive, folks who can't afford to purchase and maintain a car, or those who choose not to drive for personal reasons. These people, together, make a large segment of the community. More flexible transportation options would make ALL of us more independent and less isolated throughout the course of our lives.

If someone's license is taken, they become isolated and dependent on others for transportation. This is why so many older folks choose to drive longer than they should. Let's not punish those who responsibly choose not to drive when they can't any more. Let's provide transportation options that serve everyone.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2014 at 12:24 pm

If you can no longer safely drive, there are options. Downtown Palo Alto is easily walkable if you live nearby. California Ave is becoming more pedestrian friendly. The city has its shuttle bus system. Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are quick and easy. Palo Alto used to have many VTA bus routes in residential areas, but those were removed when residents shunned them; maybe it is time to bring those back?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by susan weisberg
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 4, 2014 at 12:30 pm

I hate to be a "meanie" but I think under these circumstances, the driver of that vehicle should have his license revoked! No test can replicate what someone's reflexes and reactions might be consistently; it just measures a specific point of time. Clearly this gentleman's situation is precarious at best. As I age, and I am considerably younger, I can see changes in my depth perception and the speed of my reflexes. I think that everyone reaches a time when it is important to recognize and acknowledge these changes, and to hang up those keys. We are fortunate to have paratransit and other transportation resources ( I know they are not as efficient and there is a cost) and I keep rooting for google to get that driverless car on the road....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Getyourfsctd
a resident of University South
on Aug 4, 2014 at 3:49 pm

People. Get your facts straight. The driver in the menlo park incident went through the exact same 5 day retest pricess. Geez


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stretch
a resident of another community
on Aug 4, 2014 at 4:01 pm

My mother had two non-injury accidents, and swore there was something wrong with the gas pedal. We sold her car and she moved in with my brother. My father gradually stopped driving as I volunteered to do errands. No discussion. It's a shame that our egos tell us that nothing's wrong with us. This man, and the one in Menlo Park should stop driving before someone ELSE is hurt or killed. Common sense, but driving is also the last bastion of independence, and it's hard to know when to stop. The drivers in the Bay Area should ALL be tested and hypnotized into believing that the rules do, indeed, apply to everyone!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Robin
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 4, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Retesting vs. not retesting. 90 vs. 18. What I see is that people are pre-occupied while driving and in some cases older peopke, who at a certain age need more attention from the DMV. I am surprised accidents like the Menlo Park driver, the PA driver or the young couple that decided not to make a left hand turn and side swiped a vehicle with a family in it, on Lytton, do not happen more offer. You'd be amazed how many people drive the wrong way on high street - its a one way street people...
In general driver old and young need to be more aware of what they do while driving - this mean put down the gadgets and turn off the distractions - please!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by MenloNeighbor520
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 4, 2014 at 6:33 pm

A report on the Menlo Park incident did indicate that that driver was also required to report to the DMV within 5 days or face suspension. Perhaps the situation was the same? What was the DMV likely to do? A driving test? I suspect there is no double standard but more clarity in the reporting. See Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kristi Corley
a resident of Portola Valley
on Aug 6, 2014 at 4:41 pm

I wrote Barbara Boxer and Jackie Speirer to consider writing a bill which would require the DMV to be more stringent on drivers over 85 years with yearly requirements of renewal. Lets see if they really take it into consideration and act. Lets have our elected officials work and write bills to keep our communities safe from unfit drivers in our counties. I'm not sure the best age to require the annual renewal 80-90 years? That would be part of the research in writing this bill as to number of annual accidents happen at what age in California.

I have yet to get a detailed response as to their position regarding my request and if they are willing to act on it by writing my suggested bill.

Here's some more information from the DMV on senior drivers

Web Link

Web Link





 +   Like this comment
Posted by wife of victim
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 8, 2014 at 12:31 pm

please get your facts straight! Your reporting of the injuries is incorrect.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SRL
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 13, 2014 at 4:32 pm

SRL is a registered user.

I wonder if there is any news about the victims of the accident? The original report stated that some of them had critical injuries, and I have been thinking about those victims with concern. They were innocents caught in this tragedy. How are they doing? Is there a place where I can find this out?


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