Town Square

Woman crashes car into Midtown building

Original post made on Nov 18, 2007

An 87-year-old woman attempting to park apparently hit the gas pedal by mistake and her car struck a building at 2655 Middlefield Road late Thursday afternoon, according to Palo Alto Police Sgt. Gary Brooks.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, November 18, 2007, 2:46 PM


Posted by Took Mom's car away, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 18, 2007 at 5:26 pm

So glad to hear no one was hurt. Why was she still driving? Did any friends or family members report her to the DMV? Her doctor?

I had to take my mom's car away after her friends expressed concern and I watched her driving skills deteriorate. Very hard to do, but I could not bear to have the blood of another's loved one on my hands.
The best reason I could use was that she could get sued and have all her money taken away (since she refused to believe she would ever hurt someone).

And I hope my kids will know when the right time is for me to stop driving if I am not aware enough.

Posted by janette, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2007 at 5:55 pm

You're assuming she is incompetent, when any number of people of various ages have made that mistake. That's ageism.

Posted by Grandma, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 18, 2007 at 8:32 pm

I am very sorry to hear of an 87 year old who accidentally puts their foot on the gas peddle instead of the brake.

There is a solution to this problem which would allow the elderly to continue driving which I personally use. I'm a senior citizen who drives a stick shift. It is very difficult to make that error without stalling the engine. Anyway, I feel so much more in control of my car driving a manual.

Posted by Palo Parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 18, 2007 at 9:34 pm

The code for all storefronts that face cars faced in and not separated by a raised curb should be required to have a post or immovable barrier in front of each parking space. Could you imagine if that had happened in front of Score with kids inside and parents waiting in the window seats?

Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 18, 2007 at 10:26 pm


1) Mandatory driving tests in a simulator for all drivers over 65, every two years. Over 75, every year.

Response time, night vision, peripheral perception, etc. etc should all be tested against norms within a range.

One retest permitted, immediately after first failure. If you fail the retest, your license in gone.

2) Create affordable, accessible, comfortable mass transit systems that permit anyone to go wherever they want, whenever they want. There are many possibilities foro new, private transport businesses in this sector.

Either we deal with this, or we will see a lot more of this kind of tragedy as our population ages.

Posted by not magical just human, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 18, 2007 at 11:12 pm

basically mike, unless youre going to magically become 234908023894 people to help run those tests for the tens of millions of elders who you "think need this test" then go ahead. if not, maybe a little information for you - reconsider your greatness.

Posted by Liz, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2007 at 8:17 am

With good luck everyone is going to be old one day including Mike. No politician will be offering legislation that Mike suggests because all politicians need the senior vote to survive.

I would remind Mike that a lot more teenage drivers cause serious accidents than those over 65; perhaps we should put all teenagers through the same tests.

To test every senior in the State would require a huge investment in additional DMV personnel; not to mention facilities in which to test them. All costing a lot of money the State does not have.

Posted by sue, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2007 at 8:52 am

MDs have a responsibility to report to the DMV people who are unfit to

drive because of illness age related and other.

This woman should not be driving, she could have easily injured children.

The police, her MD and her insurance company should immediately inform the DMV and her driving privileges taken away today

Posted by se, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2007 at 9:43 am

The geriatrification of society is a looming crisis for Europe the

crisis has already arrived in Japan and its not a pretty sight see Web Link.

While the demographics for USA are not such a disaster local communities like Palo Alto will face major challenges with an increasingly aged population, driving problems may be the least of them !

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2007 at 10:10 am

From what I have heard anecdotally, it is very difficult for someone other than the family of an elderly person to get the dmv, or police, or anyone to stop a person driving unless there is an accident. Doctors are very reluctant to take away the driving privilege of an elderly person, particularly if they can see no family members in the area, and no real alternative to driving for the person's ability to go about living independently.

It may be in this case that there are no family in the area who can see that an older person is getting too infirm to drive. Friends or neighbors may not be in the position to do this themselves legally.

There is often no support for our elderly residents. The buses are getting less (as we know to our cost, rte 88??) and taxi services are not cheap. As a society, we must put time and effort into helping these elderly people. As healthcare and medications extend lifetimes, the services provided to older people to continue living independently must also increase.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2007 at 10:15 am

Two extensions to my points. If a doctor stops an elderly patient driving, that may be the last time the doctor sees the patient as they then feel they have no transportation method to get to see the doctor.

Also, the perceived cost of taxis seems expensive, but with insurance and other costs is probably not as expensive as the elderly think when they look at annual taxi rides as opposed to annual car ownership costs. But, a person who has to use taxis will definitely only go out if it is essential and depending on the type of person they are, their idea of essential may be to skip things like routine doctors appointments, and buying healthier fresh food regularly because they are thinking that it saves them money by not getting taxis.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 19, 2007 at 3:46 pm

Before my mother died, my parents lived in an "active seniors" housing complex, Sun City Roseville. It was great until my mother lost her license due to siezures, and my dad's Parkinsons was so bad that he could not hold the wheel. Then they were stuck in their house, depending on the kindness of neighbors and friends to take them to the store, going out to a show or for dinner etc. They went from being "active" to "captive."

By contrast, Palo Alto could provide, should it choose to do so, alternative forms of transportation for people who do not drive by choice or are restricted from doing so. We have a great start with the Shuttle, but my dad cannot climb the steps to get into it. And it goes only to certain places in its current configuration at certain times. VTA does have its service, but I personally find it confusing, and it is not clear how it works for people without physical limitations that have been certified.

I am not sure what the right approach is here, but there seems to be potential benefit to providing more robust means to people who really are better off not driving to get around. The personal experience I have shuttling my father around this area before he became too weak to leave his nursing home tells me that we are sitting on something that is going to grow in complexity and difficulty in the coming years as we who now are sitting become that upon which others will be sitting.

How something like this would look, feel, work and be financed are not things I have given much consideration to. But, things start with clearly defining a problem or potential problem/opportunity, and taking it from there.

Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 19, 2007 at 5:55 pm

"basically mike, unless youre going to magically become 234908023894 people to help run those tests for the tens of millions of elders who you "think need this test" then go ahead."

Technology is already available that will permit remote, automated testing that's integrated with simuators, from your living room, over a high speed connection. Biometric identification will insure that nobody is taking the test for you.

Give it a decade; this will happen - just prior to the senior baby boom reaching critical mass.

Watch for other innovatinos and cool new businesses that leverage the looming senior populations, all over the globe.

There's always a voice or two that says "we can't". Those are the voices of defeat and negatvity. We need them less and less, as our world becomes more complex, and thirsts for solutions to this complexity.

Posted by Liz, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2007 at 6:20 pm

Paul, I think it's possible for seniors to call for a bus from Avenidas. I don't know how this works but I do know that a neighbor of mine uses an Avenidas bus to get to her Doctor or hospital.

Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2007 at 7:37 pm

I agree with Mike. Just because something is hard to do doesn't mean that you shouldn't try. I guarantee that we won't change things if we don't make an attempt. I was nearly hit while on my bike by an elderly woman a couple of years ago. I flagged her down and chewed her out, and she said she was sick, had just come from her doctor, and admitted that she was in no condiiton to drive. I went to talk to her doctor, and he just shrugged it off, saying it wasn't his business. If a bartender lets a drunk customer go in no condition to drive he can be held liable, but doctors cannot. I called the family and they said that this was the woman's last day of driving. They already planned to take away her keys the next day. I was the last person to be threatened by her before she stopped driving forever, but I barely survived to tell about it.

Posted by Daughter, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2007 at 9:11 pm

Its not just the doctor's visits that are crucial for seniors. They need to get around the town, visit fun places, meet their friends / family. The city needs to have a good shuttle service for this.

VTA service within the city of Palo Alto is useful/good if you live close to the main routes (Middlefield Road in Midtown). If you stay a block or two away, you are stuck with walking that distance - be it rain or shine. Also VTA's frequency is not good.

Palo Alto has a shuttle service. Can that be augmented to cover some more area ?

On another note - how does the para-transit work? Shouldn't that be one of the considered solutions.

Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2007 at 9:33 pm

Of course Palo Alto's free shuttle program could be expanded. The question is who pays for it, and how much. It was started with grant money, but that has expired and it is now up to the City to fund the continuing program.

Posted by joe, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 20, 2007 at 4:37 am

I have had a lot more close calls from younger people talking on their cell phones than I have ever had from an elderly person, in fact, I have had none of the latter Also, an elderly person has never come after me in a road rage incident, unlike a younger person.

As Liz pointed out, if you are going for bigotry, go after teenagers, not older people.

You want tougher, nore frequent driving tests? Fine. Just make them applicable to everyone. I'm sure Mike can figure out a way to make this happen.

Posted by Taylor, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2007 at 6:43 am

As a tax payer in PA I'm not in favor of extending the shuttle service. Whenever I see those mini buses around town they are nearly always quite empty particularly the cross town bus. I think they are a waste of money but since they are a pet project of Mayor Kishimoto they aren't going away any time soon.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2007 at 8:43 am


As for the shuttle, you have obviously not seen the shuttle at school commute times.

As for the elderly v teens debate, the thing about teen drivers is that they should improve their driving skills with experience. As for elderly drivers, true they have plenty of experience, but after a close call the only thing you can say is that their driving skills will diminish not improve. I know of one elderly person who most definitely should not be driving and I have mentioned this, but I am not family and no notice is taken of me. I can only offer rides to places and I am always declined.

Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Nov 20, 2007 at 9:00 am

Two problems with the shuttles are raised:
1) They aren't where you want them, when you want them.
2) They're often empty.
The first is used as an argument to increase service - if they're more readily available, more people are likely to ride. The second is an argument to decrease service - don't spend money on an underutilized service.

Is there room for more creative solutions than 'more' or 'less'? For example, how about having an on-demand service? Something like an airport or car dealer shuttle. Maybe a hybrid system where the shuttles sit dispersed across town in strategic locations (train stations, downtown, etc.) and are available on demand.

If you've ever played SimTower and managed the elevators (yeah, I've got kids and I play with them), it'd be something like that. The elevators are parked on predetermined floors based on demand at that time of day. The closest one responds to a demand, and the others shift and fill in if it lands at the other end of the building. At busy times they stick to their planned route and go back and forth.

It's just a thought....feel free to pick it apart and come up with something better.

Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2007 at 9:50 am

There is no question that young drivers are more dangerous than elderly ones, but I don't see why we need to target one group or the other. We need to work on both. There have been several restrictions placed on young drivers recently, with more to come. It isn't hard to convince people of the need for this, and they don't have any political lobby behind them. There have been no comparable changes to the laws for elderly drivers. They are a more powerful political force, and they have fewer alternatives available to them. This problem is only going to get worse as the numbers rise.

Posted by se, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2007 at 12:40 pm

The difference between teen drivers and aged drivers is that teen drivers get safer as they get older-- aged drivers get more dangerous as they get older.

I support making MDs more accountable for reporting unfit drivers to the DMV

Posted by nowhining, a resident of another community
on Nov 20, 2007 at 1:41 pm

What about teaching people (of all ages) what to do? Californians do not learn enough good driving skills. Generally the drivers whose cars are propelled in the wrong direction press onto the pedal because they convinced that they are pressing onto the break pedal and they are to trying to stop the car from moving by applying even more pressure and as a result they crash.
I am not a senior citizen though I am getting there. Besides knowing how to drive a stick shift as Grandma mentioned I learned good driving skills in the UK and use standard UK procedures that would make it very difficult for anyone to press the wrong pedal.

Here they are:
When your car is stationary you should ALWAYS apply the hand break.
When you start the car lower gently the hand break and at the same time apply slight pressure on the pedal. If the car "wants" to move in the wrong direction you are pressing the wrong pedal. Reapply the hand break, recheck the gear (did you put it in reverse?) and recheck the pedal always using the hand break as an auxiliarly break.
Also, should you panic, lift your foot off the pedal and apply hand break. It's that easy.
we should make handbrake use a compulsary part of the driving skills.

Posted by Brit, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2007 at 3:17 pm


As someone who never drove an automatic til coming to this country, I do know how to use a handbrake. However, many cars here do not have handbrakes, there is often a pedal which needs strange bodily contortions to apply, even though I apply mine all time time when parking. These pedal handbrakes, could never give clutch control, which is what you are talking about. Clutch control is of course only needed on a manual transmission and of course is the real solution. And, by the way, my clutch control is good enough to pass a British hill start on the driving test whereby if you roll back a fraction of an inch when starting on a hill, that is a point against you in your driving test. I am not sure how you can do that effectively on a hill start with an automatic, rolling backwards I mean. Most automatics starting on hills will roll back about an inch, the time it takes someone to take their foot of the brake and put it on the accelerator.

Posted by Pete, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2007 at 8:39 pm

here's what we did: tell the police to watch dad's driving (in another small town) and take appropriate steps. it's tough losing a license, but that's life.

Posted by Kari Martell, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2007 at 2:12 pm

Social workers at Avenidas, the senior center in Palo Alto, have worked with many families on the sensitive issue of when people should stop driving. Driving represents independence to most seniors, so there is a lot of resistance to giving it up. However, deciding when to stop driving doesn't need to be an all or nothing decision.

For example, some seniors may choose to stop driving at night, but continue driving in the day. Others might avoid times of heavy traffic, unfamiliar areas or when there is bad weather.

There are some actions seniors (or their families) can take to determine if they are still safe behind the wheel. Many of these suggestions can be found in the handy resource guide "How to Care for Aging Parents" by Virginia Morris.

1) Take a driving refresher course, such as the "55 Alive" class taught by the AARP at Avenidas. Or call the DMV for other classes.
2) Contact the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety at 1-800-305-7233 to request their self-exam for older drivers.
3) Wear a seat belt.
4) Have your eyesight and hearing tested.
5) If you suffer from dizziness, confusion or blurred eyesight, ask your doctor about ways to reduce these symptoms.
6) Exercise daily, which helps improve reaction times, range of motion and attentiveness. Simply stretching the neck each day by rotating the head side to side and up and down, and circling the shoulders can help people twist around to parallel park or check oncoming traffic with greater agility and safety.

Avenidas offers numerous exercise classes for all levels of fitness.

7) Make sure your car is in good working order—including brakes, defroster, defogger, battery, wipers, dashboard light and exterior lights and turn signals.
8) Get large mirrors installed and add extra mirrors if you are having trouble turning your head to see what's behind you.
9) If you cannot see clearly over the dashboard, buy a seat cushion at an automobile store. (Do not use a pillow because it might slip.)

If it is your parents' driving you're concerned about, enlist the family doctor to tell them that it's time to stop driving. Or contact Avenidas for a consultation on how to broach the subject. If your parents use their driver's licenses for identification, consider calling the DMV to request a photo ID card they can use instead.

Be ready to offer solutions to possible travel problems. For example, Avenidas has a van that takes seniors to the grocery store every week, and a bus that delivers people to the center so they can enjoy companionship and a hot lunch at La Comida. For seniors who could benefit from adult day health services, Avenidas has a van that delivers them to Avenidas Rose Kleiner Senior Day Health Center in Mountain View. Additionally, Avenidas has a Roadrunners program in conjunction with El Camino Hospital. These are volunteer drivers that can take your parents where they want to go for very low fees.

Consider Avenidas as a resource for you and your parents. Call us at (650) 289-5400 for more information on how to work with your parents to be safer behind the wheel, or to consider giving up driving altogether.

Posted by Took Mom's car away, a resident of Ventura
on Nov 21, 2007 at 3:24 pm

Not to pit teens against elderly, but I do think many adults have more oversight over their teens than they do over their elderly parents.

While not legally liable for our parents, I think we are morally obliged to do the right thing, and talk to their doctor, or even the DMV if they aren't safe.

Paratransit is only for those not able to take public transit: Web Link

Posted by nowhining, a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2007 at 4:59 am

Dear Brit, I am very confused. Every single car in the US has handbrakes ( it is called hand brake because it is operated by the hand not the foot). They are required. No contorsions needed.( What are you talking about when you say "pedal" for handbrake?) I took my first driving test in the UK ( I have various drivers licenses taken at different places where I have been, my british driver's license valid for till I am very old with no retesting) and I can assure you that even in the UK both automatic and manual transmission cars have handbrakes. By the way what automatic car do you drive that you claim doesn't have handbrakes? You make my case by not knowing what a handbrake is let alone how to use and operate one.

Showing people what to do in an emergency such as when they feel their car "lurching forward" (which incidently also happens to people who are not old) should be a part of drivers' ed but it isn't. It is not so much a matter of retesting old people as of it is tested. No stick shift cars are needed for a good older driver because those have their own perils Just updating the cognitive parts of drivers' education would be a very good start for the old and the young, with more attention to their cognitive differences. Testing for situations that are not regular should be compulsory.

Posted by Grumpy, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 22, 2007 at 10:21 am


My two Dodge vans do not have hand brakes. The parking brake is operated by the left foot.

Posted by Mary, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 22, 2007 at 12:21 pm

I haven't seen a hand brake in years. Our '98 Toyota Camry has an emergency brake on the left side of the floor board - operated by left foot. No rental car we have every had in years or ones we have owned prior to 1998 had hand brake.

Posted by Brit, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2007 at 8:00 pm

No whining

You have no idea. A pedal, by definition, is used by the foot, in this case the left foot. A handbrake, is used by the hand. In a manual transmission, a handbrake is very necessary. In an automatic transmission a parking brake, operated by the foot, is required. I am not sure how often it is used by the average American, but I do use mine every time I park. I do know the difference between a hand operated handbrake even in an automatic, and a foot operated parking brake or emergency brake. If you do not know what I am talking about it seems to me that you do not use yours.

Posted by nowhining, a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2007 at 11:47 am


As I said i use my hand brakes at all times when I am parked and at other times when necessary. A hand brake is a lever, generally between front seats. Only the very very old american cars with continuous front seats do not have them as an ready accessible lever though they they have hand brakes.
Please skip suggesting that I do not use my car hand brake. It's neither true and in any case it wouldn't be a good argument for safer driving. The fact remains that californians do not enjoy basic training in out of the ordinary driving procedures and that's a shame. it also contributes to accidents.
Again I ask you: what car do you drive?

Posted by Brit, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2007 at 1:15 pm


I drive a Mercury and to operate the hand brake I need to use a pedal with my left foot and to release it I use my left hand. Both movements are awkward and not as easy as a handbrake between the two seats would be.

I am glad that you do use your handbrake, but I have not come across too many Americans who suggest that the average California driver does not have adequate driving skills. I feel sure that most would roll backwards doing a hill start, could not do a 3 point turn, reverse a car backwards around a corner or parallel park in a narrow street between two parked cars. If these are the sort of skills to which you refer, I would agree with you. These are all part of the regular driving test in Britain, and if you pass your test in an automatic, then you are only licensed to drive an automatic, which puts you at a disadvantage as automatics tend to be more expensive, hard to rent and difficult to come by unless ordered specially.

Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 23, 2007 at 1:26 pm

nowhining has a point. The very same simulation technologies that were mentioned earlier could be used to *train* and *test* drivers - both young and old.

The fact is that most accidents happen from lack of experience. Why not begin to think about using available technologies to close the experience gap?

Posted by nowhining, a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2007 at 1:07 pm

Brit, coming out of my mini vacation I still would like to answer you. You keep pounding on the fact that you learned how to drive in the UK. SO DID I. That is why I am not convinced by your argument that your parking brake is difficult to operate. I drove in the UK operating all instruments in the reverse that they are in the US (and most of the world) and had to learn that. Therefore operating your parking break on a left pedal should make the most sense to you.
But my main argument is that drivers whose cognitive systems may on occasion confuse pedals would be less likely to provoke a serious accident if they knew what to do. Even without using a hand break just taking both feet off ANY pedal would make the accident less severe. Using the gear box together with the maneuver would improve its results. But you need to be taught and practice these and other emergency procedures ( how not overcorrect a turn for example- recently a young inexperienced Palo Altan died because of overcorrection). Instead of harping on the good british training and cumbersome stick shift cars (I drive both) training both of the young and old drivers is a must. No amount of old age medical tests will substitute for education and awareness and no statistical inference of the effects of drivers' age is ever appropriate for individual drivers. An older specific driver may very well be better coordinated than a specific young person just because the older driver had always been better coordinated than his/her peers, for example and vice versa. btw, my 30 years of driving never produced any accidents ( thanks Dad for making me do emergency maneuvers over and over again despite my protests)
As Mike says using available technologies to close the experience gap would be a good start.

Posted by HondaOwner, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 28, 2007 at 1:13 pm

Odyssey mini van's "hand break" needs to be operated by foot.

Posted by Brit, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2007 at 1:55 pm


I am a little confused about what you mean about using the operating instructions in the reverse. Yes, when in Britain I used a right hand drive car to drive on the left. Yes, I did change gear with my left hand and also used my left hand to operate the hand brake. However, I still used my right foot for the accelerator and brake pedals, the way I do now. I used my left foot for the clutch, which would be normal here. What I do not understand is why you think using my left foot for the brake pedal would feel sensible to me. This pedal in my car is high on the left and is used relatively easily, but the release involves me leaning forward and releasing a lever which can't be done smoothly as a hand brake can. In fact, it is a similar release mechanism to the release of the hood. A true hand brake can be released gently by holding the release mechanism with the thumb while slowly lowering the handbrake when clutch control with the clutch and accelerator are holding the car. Trying to do that with my present car would be impossible. I have to have my right foot on the brake while leaning forward under the dash to release the handbrake, then sit back, check mirrors, etc. and remove my right foot from the brake to the gas pedal.

I do agree that drivers can get confused with the brake and gas pedals, but remember, the same foot is used to operate them. The mechanism used for changing drom D to R varies from car to car, but in a manual gear box, there is usually a different technique used for getting the car into reverse by the gear lever, either pulling up as well as across, or pushing a button on the gear lever. Either of these prevents an accidental movement into Reverse. My car at present shows no difference between the D and R posiitions other than the letter and the only obvious method to use to double check you are in the right place is to edge away by inches. This is definitely something the auto industry could work on.

Posted by Nowhining, a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2007 at 5:32 am

Well, something that was learned well is that we shouldn't really try to improve our own cognitive response to an emergency: instead we blame the position of the emergency braking system and we say that only industry has to change, not us, God forbid (now that you know next time look for a vehicle with a proper hand brake). No matter how awkward operating a vehicle (which was not chosen against the owner's will) is it's not our responsibility to upgrade our knowledge you seem to say.

A gear box in an automatic car is far easier to use than in a stick shift-you don't need a clutch. What is difficult about lowering your gear, taking both feet off pedals and lowering or reversing gear while directing the car away from danger and try being in charge of the car? It maybe difficult if you haven't practiced.
In the two pedal confusion accidents I personally witnessed the cars were propelled forward, not in reverse ( as they should have been since both cars were exiting parking spaces).
There are many rules in many US States that I think can pose more challenges than it is otherwise necessary- for example (just to mention one) parking in, so that you have to exit the parking spot backwards without much visibility. But to say that because of one particular not generalized operational difficulty we all should resort to stick shift cars is a bit like buying a blouse to fit a button. Besides, one particular issue with stick shift cars is that the speed of response depends entirely on the skill and speedy response of the driver. Most cognitive responses are too slow precisely because of the set of physical actions necessary. Those make the driver focus on too many actions at the same time instead of just controlling the steering wheel and one pedal while the automatic system responds with the automatic tasks. Automatic is better in the great majority of instances.

Most americans have learned to drive when they were young in uncrowded suburbs and never took a driving course again in their lives. They lack awareness of their own driving actions because they have been driving for a long time automating their cognitive responses. You can be sure that if drivers were forced to drive in a crowded Central New York, London, Boston or Philadelphia as I had for many years they would have had to sharpen their driving skills or get off the road altogether. No system or vehicle is or can be perfect but it is not just the auto industry that can work on improvements. Dear brit, do you want to be part of the complain or the control of this safety issue?
I had my say. Thanks for you attention.

Posted by Brit, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2007 at 9:27 am


I think we agree on this, but I am sorry if you think I am the problem. I agree that most people here do not have the necessary driving skills you seem to think important. I am not blaming the auto industry for anything, but designs can always be improved and perhaps a buzz, or light on the dash when the car is in R would be a good idea as an additional safety feature but it wouldn't necessarily stop people getting their feet on the wrong pedals. I personally do not agree with you about automatics being safer as instincts take over. My instincts when driving a manual were put in place as I learned to drive and for an emergency stop you put both feet (one on the brake, one on the clutch) hard down on the pedals. You say that the best way to treat an emergency is to take both feet off both pedals, that is not necessarily the quickest way to stop even if going at a crawl.

Many Americans do not actually seem to know what the gears in their cars are doing. If someone has had the opportunity to learn to drive a manual they get the feel of what is going on when the car suddenly makes odd movements, it is changing gear for you. If someone has had the experience of manually changing into a lower gear to slow speed or to accelerate quickly or to climb a hill, then it is not a mystery when the car suddenly starts doing these things by itself.

You try to make me sound an incompetent driver, which I don't think I am. I am not perfect, but I can only say that my experience of having driven in Britain, (and also in Europe with steering wheel on both sides of the car which is even more odd if you are sitting near the kerb) makes me a better driver overall. The more experience we have, the better.