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

With growing population of seniors, Avenidas social worker wants a discussion

Even with indications that they're no longer driving safely, older people often are reluctant to give up the car keys.

Following an accident Thursday in which an older driver hit five pedestrians after apparently accelerating onto a downtown Palo Alto sidewalk, geriatric social worker Paula Wolfson of Avenidas said she hopes to organize a community forum this fall on the issue of driving safety and the growing proportion of local residents who are senior citizens.

One-third of Palo Alto's population already is 55 and older, according to the U.S. Census.

Wolfson said she frequently counsels families on the sensitive topic of approaching an aging parent about turning over the car keys.

"It comes up all the time in my caregiver support group," she said.

"The best approach for discussion with a frail senior is to not humiliate them, but to help honor them for being civic minded and concerned about the safety of others, including oneself and one's family."

In fact, Wolfson thinks people who choose to stop driving for safety reasons should be honored for being "civic-minded, good citizens."

"I want to reframe it -- for people to feel good about the fact that they've made this decision," she said. "I think we should look at this and consider how we move forward as a community."

Wolfson stressed she could draw no specific conclusions about Thursday's accident -- which police said involved a driver in his 90s -- and said the immediate focus should be on concern for the people affected.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), "An evaluation of the relative magnitudes of the crash problems contributed by younger and older drivers indicates that younger-driver problems vastly exceed older-driver problems.

"Younger drivers were involved in four times as many reported crashes as the older group. They also were involved in three times as many fatal crashes as older drivers," the NHTSA said.

But a 90-year-old driver was involved in a similar car accident in downtown Menlo Park last October, when a car jumped a curb onto a sidewalk, injuring six-year-old twins.

And, said NHTSA, "Age-related changes in vision make it more difficult for older adults to accommodate to darkness, recognize objects under low lighting conditions, recover from glare and search their environment."

For more information, see an NHTSA report on older and younger drivers here.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, "Older drivers have low rates of police-reported crash involvements per capita; their per capita fatal crash rates begin to increase at age 70. Per mile traveled, crash rates and fatal crash rates also start increasing at about age 70."

See the institute's FAQs on older drivers here.

Many local agencies serving seniors -- including the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Avenidas and Little House in Menlo Park -- offer an eight-hour AARP "Driver Safety" course as well as a four-hour refresher course.

Leslie Schreiber, who will teach the refresher course at Avenidas Tuesday, Aug. 12, said many insurance companies offer discounted rates to people who have completed the full course. To register for the refresher (available only to people who already have taken the full course), call 650-289-5400.

The Palo Alto Medical Foundation will offer the full AARP Driver Safety course in two four-hour segments Aug. 8 and Aug 15. To register, call 650-853-2960.

"It's a very comprehensive, serious class," said PAMF education manager Becky Beacom. "It gives people strategies and can get them money off their insurance rates. It's something we feel is prevention, and it works for everybody."

Schreiber, a volunteer who has taught the driving-safety course for 11 years, said he typically polls his classes to ask how many are enrolled to reduce their insurance premiums and "most people raise their hands."

But when he asks how many people think they'll have to give up driving, "Nobody raises their hand. They don't want to have to think about that," Schreiber said.

Wolfson of Avenidas asked that people who are interested in organizing a community forum about safe driving and seniors contact her at 650-289-5438. She also would like to hear from people who have made the decision to stop driving for safety reasons.

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Posted by Sea-Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 1, 2014 at 9:26 am

My prayers to the injured including the driver who happens to be elderly.

Please do not over react about the senior citizens driving. It is the DMV responsibility to give them driving licenses etc.,

This could happen any where, when the driver is rushing or for variety of reasons.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 1, 2014 at 9:26 am

But first, for starters, close all the bars and ban any liquor sold after 10:00 p.m. or maybe close the bars all together. Read all the DUI arrests listed in the local papers after a weekend. Second, require everyone under twenty-one to take a safety refresher course every two years. The worst driving I see around here is not by senior citizens. But if one does have an accident it is top headlines. THEY are not THE problem.

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Posted by policing
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 1, 2014 at 9:32 am

The police need to be more aggressive about ticketing incompetent drivers. Too often, I see them giving warnings instead of tickets. After any moving violation citation, a driver should be required to take a full driving test to renew their drivers license.

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Posted by Anna
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 1, 2014 at 10:05 am

I am far more worried and afraid of all the younger (ages teens through middle age) drivers playing with their cell phones and not paying attention while driving. I am sick of being almost side-swiped and also people not going when the light turns green (because they are looking down). I notice FAR more of those than people with gray hair driving in a way that gets my attention. Extra DMV testing and classes should be required for them too.

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Posted by Belinda
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 1, 2014 at 10:24 am

Re. the DMV's responsibility (Sea-Seelam Reddy) to license older drivers:
My 85 year old mother flunked both her vision and her written license renewal test. She studied online, returned to the DMV and passed the exam.
The DMV did NOT retest her vision. My mother had become blind in one eye and did not compensate well for the lack of depth perception and various peripheral vision issues. We were deeply concerned about her ability to continue to drive safely and after much compassionate discussion, pleading, begging we chose to disable her auto. Fortunately, she did not discover that the disconnected battery could easily be re-connected by AAA. Her family made themselves available to drive her anywhere/anytime but mom never fully recovered from her perceived loss of independence. Kudos to programs which promote the concept of good citizenship by voluntarily giving up the keys.

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Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 1, 2014 at 10:25 am

I think this forum is an excellent idea. As a society, we aren't dealing with the issues of aging in suburbia openly and honestly. The truth is that most people will be capable of living independently for 5-10 years longer than they are capable of driving comfortably and safely.

Elderly people who are forced to give up driving without adequate transportation alternatives do not fare well mentally or emotionally. Many don't need a care facility they just need safe and affordable ways to get to the grocery, to the library, to friends' homes, to church, to the drug store. And in a city that isn't set up for people to get around easily without a private car, that's a public problem, not just a personal problem.

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Posted by jim clifford
a resident of another community
on Aug 1, 2014 at 10:42 am

The CHP has classes for older drivers. I attended one and realized I wasn't as sharp as I thought, but, because we live in an age of sensitivity, any restrictions, such as more testing, should apply to all, not just older drivers. Otherwise, the restrictions might be labeled "inappropriate, discriminatory and offensive."

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Posted by SWE
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 1, 2014 at 10:45 am

SWE is a registered user.

Things will change when we have autonomous/driverless cars. Then the elderly can literally drive around on autopilot :-)

I hope the conversation will take care to separate the active, younger seniors from the older, therr's a huge difference.

Also, tease out the relevant info - older drivers are less likely to speed, be on the freeway, use alcohol, etc, but the data that come out of that has really nothing to do with the situation here, amother accident by a very old driver in our narrow-sidewalks-right-next-to-roads-and-zero-setback-building urbanscapes. Glad Avenidas is willing to have the conversation and offer alternatives.

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Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 1, 2014 at 10:47 am

let's talk about real solutions.

Close University Ave. during peak hours and redirect traffic to side streets all the way up to El Camino.


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Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 1, 2014 at 11:16 am

We should not distract from the real issue here.

Once someone is at the point where they mistake the accelerator for the brake pedal and vice-versa, they should no longer be driving. The DMV must be more vigilant about revoking licenses, and family members and physicians need to have the courage to intervene when it becomes clear that a senior no longer has the faculties to operate a motor vehicle safely.

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Posted by Susan Smith
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 1, 2014 at 11:31 am

Some thought:

1) Permission to drive should not be based on age; Teens and individuals often are more dangerous that the one or two elder driver incidents (in Palo Alto yesterday and in Menlo Park some time ago). Permission to drive should be based on whether or not an individual of whatever age can meet the DMV requirements. 2) The crying need to improve public transportation goes hand in hand with any forum or considerations for restricting driving based on age. 3) Let's not look to regulation to save families from the difficult conversations and decisions to restrict seniors from driving based on individual ability.

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Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 1, 2014 at 11:39 am

Closing downtown Palo Alto streets is not a solution. It doesn't address the inherent problem. It just limits the number of potential accident sites slightly.

It doesn't reduce the likelihood of this happening on California Avenue, downtown Los Altos, downtown Menlo Park, downtown Redwood City, downtown Mountain View, et cetera ad nauseam.

Building a high curb or barriers in front of stores doesn't help in all of the places where those measures aren't taken. Would you like three foot high concrete pylons at every single curb on every single public road in this state? That's not a realistic solution (although someone made the suggestion in another discussion about yesterday's accident).

This issue is eroding motor coordination and decision making skills by senior aged drivers. This is a separate, discrete topic from all other accidents, age groups, whatever. Increasing the minimum age for driver's licenses does not affect this particular type of accident by this specific group of drivers.

Let us remember that driving a motor vehicle is a PRIVILEGE not a right. The vehicle code exists primarily to maintain a reasonable level of public safety. Drivers must demonstrate that they understand the regulations and are capable of acting by those.

The aptitude and abilities of people change over time.

The real question is whether or not the people who are responsible for maintain safety of the general public (i.e., the government) is doing enough to ensure that those licensed to operate motor vehicles are capable of doing so in a safe manner.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 1, 2014 at 11:45 am

I agree exactly with Mike.
Once someone has crashed up onto a sidewalk, injuring people, confusing the accelerator pedal for the brake, then THAT'S IT. License GONE. That's all the "proof" anyone needs. I really don't care that it appeared the driver was not drunk or high on drugs. So what? The law needs to be changed NOW to deal with such negligent drivers, not excuse them because oh, they weren't impaired by drink or drugs. Well, they are criminally negligent if they are driving IF they can't handle it, I don't care the "reason." Innocent people do NOT deserve to be injured or killed because of such selfish drivers as this one.
And now, I suppose the elderly driver will be advised by his lawyers to sue the persons strolling along the sidewalk and seated at cafe tables there. This is California, folks, just like that how that elderly Stanford lawyer who injured children on a Menlo Park sidewalk subsequently SUED THEM! As a condition of California's sue-happy scenario, I think police should be much stronger in enforcing our laws and arresting dangerous drivers like this one on University Avenue.
There are certain other situations that are terribly dangerous that also need immediate attention: injury DUI, for example. Get that person out of the driver's seat NOW. The way this is treated so casually is NOT ok.
I go through so much as a safe, non-cited driver, to pay for costly auto insurance, obey the driving laws, and then I often read in police blotter reports about persons "cited" (not arrested!) for driving without a license, proof of insurance (likely multiple offenses as they clearly don't care). These bad people put the rest of us innocent drivers and pedestrians and cyclists at major risk.
I don't notice teen or young drivers driving poorly; I definitely often notice middle-aged male Tesla and other luxury car drivers being inattentive and texting, using their cells while driving and that is also scary.
I think the DMV written and driving tests are not modern and effective; major revamp is needed.

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Posted by Stew
a resident of Triple El
on Aug 1, 2014 at 11:48 am

Here's how the U.K. deals with senior drivers. "There is no maximum age for driving or holding a driving licence, but holders must renew their licences at age 70 and every three years thereafter, at which times they must self-certify their continued fitness to drive." Also, using available technology such as a driving simulator, an individual's abilities to drive safely could be assessed.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 1, 2014 at 11:56 am

@Susan Smith, there have likely been tons more incidents of elderly drivers crashing into things and people (not on the road, even) than you can casually recall.
There was a horrific incident at that Santa Monica "mall" in So Cal where an elderly man wreaked terrible havoc. I believe a bunch of people were injured and even killed.
In my own life, I was at Lozano's car wash a few years ago when an elderly driver crashed at high speed in REVERSE into the car wash, (first through a fence and then a wall), and it was a miracle that people jumped out of the way and were not injured. The car wash people were very sympathetic and helped the elderly driver and I don't even know if they asked for damages or even reported the incident. But is was scary and I witnessed it, and this was a simple driving error of being in reverse and suddenly accelerating and this person should not have been driving. If I had known about the capability of reporting this driver to DMV, I would have taken the license number of the car and phoned it in to them as this was a dangerous driver.

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Posted by Better public transportation, please.
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 1, 2014 at 11:56 am

Elderly folks, through the challenges of aging, lose certain cognitive and physical abilities that they need to drive safely. In a car-dependent society, they are left with a terrible choice--isolation or driving unsafely. Sadly, many who shouldn't choose to drive. (Many others make a more responsible choice with the awful consequence of losing their independence.)

We need to offer better options, including better public transportation, so that people who can't drive (not just some seniors, also younger people with disabilities like blindness, seizures, etc.) and young people who aren't old enough yet to have a license or people who aren't wealthy enough to own a car can move about independently and freely.

Frankly, designing a community to prioritize solo driving is inefficient and excludes a very large segment of our community. We can do better, and we should if we want a healthy and diverse community.

We'll all be seniors someday....

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Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 1, 2014 at 12:06 pm

The highly publicized Santa Monica incident occurred at the farmers market and there were multiple fatalities.

Concerning the Lozano's car wash incident, clearly the driver's insurance company would have been liable for the property damage to the car wash.

There are probably plenty more incidents that aren't covered by the media, like putting it in the wrong gear or hitting the wrong pedal on your own driveway or in your own garage. Stuff like that.

One might say what happens on private property doesn't matter. Well, it does. Motor vehicles are intended to go places. If a senior driver crashes their car into the water heater in their garage, it could have easily have happened in front of an ice cream parlor full of kids.

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Posted by It's ALL ages
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 1, 2014 at 12:18 pm

I am middle-aged, and this morning, a 30-ish year old male driver with a similar looking man as his passenger, darted out in front of me this morning, from a cross street, when I had no stop sign, and thus, I had the right of way.

It caused me to slam on my brakes, and I avoided hitting him broadsided, by a scant foot or so. He was oblivious to it, even when I shrugged my shoulders, making eye contact with him, as if to say, "What in the world are you thinking?"

When I shared this experience with someone else about 30 minutes later, he told me the same thing happened to him earlier this week, and that his brakes nearly locked, from him having to stop so quickly. In his case, the driver was youngish and just not paying attention. So don't blame only older drivers.

Both of these were NEAR misses, and only because the reflexes of the other drivers were good, and we were paying attention well enough to be able to stop, on a dime.

How about the 80 year old Russian woman that was walking on Central Expressway in Mountain View last year, a pedestrian on the sidewalk by Rengstorff Ave., and she was KILLED when a car careened into her?

How old was the driver in that case and how come we haven't heard anything about that tragedy? Who is being protected, by keeping this out of the news? Even the details have been out of the public eye. Was the driver texting and driving? Was the person young? If he/she were old, we'd know about it.

What about the young (and in a hurry) man that lost control of his car, careening into William Ware in Mountain View, as he waited at a bus stop?

Those two recent deaths were not caused by elderly drivers. Further, other recent pedestrian/bicyclist deaths have mostly been caused by the young, I know of two drivers that were 17 years old, and one hit a bicycle and the other, a pedestrian. It's ALL ages that need to be more careful. Not just the elderly.

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Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Here we go *again*.

We're not ignoring the fact that all drivers must conduct themselves safely on the road.

The question here is whether or not the people who are responsible for the safety of the general public doing enough to identify drivers whose deteriorating motor coordination and decision making skills make them a significant threat to the public.

Heck, we have all been involved in near misses by inattentive or careless drivers by youngsters, people in the prime of their life, whatever. That's irrelevant to what happened yesterday at University Cafe.

People age. They lose motor skills, whether it be a 35-year-old baseball player, or some 80-year-old duffer on a tennis court. They strike out more, miss easy lobs. For the pro athlete, there's someone younger available, thus ending a finite career. If you're playing recreational tennis, miss all the balls you want, no one is going to get hurt (well, your doubles partner might get a little frustrated).

Driving a motor vehicle on a public road is different because PEOPLE CAN GET KILLED if you don't have the physical and/or mental ability to control that vehicle.

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Posted by Maggie
a resident of Woodside
on Aug 1, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Is there a reason so many won't just refer to old people as "old"? It seems so much more respectful and real than "elderly" in respecting our elders. The word "elderly" carries so much "baggage" and probably works against finding respectful solutions that old people/elders can more naturally embrace. Words do matter! Otherwise, I think all drivers should have to be re-tested every 3 or 4 years. And that all drivers past the age of 69 should have to be re-tested every year. Yes that is somewhat arbitrary but systems rely on boundaries to be put in place, so I picked 70. Maybe experts on the topic of aging would have a better idea re: age to choose. But in any case, more frequent testing including eye exams. In my experience with old people (relatives and friends) their main concern about not driving anymore is that they'll be literally physically (and therefore socially) isolated. So that needs to be addressed as part of transportation options.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2014 at 12:41 pm

The responsibility of aging drivers is something that should be done at a Government level as it would be considered wrong for a concerned friend or neighbor to take away the keys of someone who we think should not be driving. Even for a family member, it is a hard thing to do as the family know that they will then be responsible for getting a non driver to all the places they need to go.

What needs to be done to prevent those elderly people driving is to improve the alternatives. We need better transportation, shuttles, taxi services, etc. so that there is a good alternative for the elderly to go without a car. My own mother lives in an area where she is able to buy a senior citizens pass which gets her to use all the buses and trains she wants without having to pay anything on top of the original cost of the pass. This pass and the occasional taxi gets her wherever she needs to go. She actually feels that she is saving money now that she doesn't own a car. She is also very fit as the walks to and from the bus/station keep her more fit than she would do without the daily exercise.

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Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 1, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Note, I'm a middle-aged guy and some day this will be relevant to ME. Heck, I walk by University Cafe once or twice a week, *I* could have easily been one of the injured victims.

Not everyone is capable of determining whether or not their driving skills have eroded to a point where they become a significant threat to public safety. Sometimes a family member might convince the person in question, maybe there are some close calls or non-injury incidents convince people to hang it up.

Ultimately, it's up to the government to ensure reasonable public safety. Heck, that's why there's a driving test, that's why there are speed limits on roads. It is unrealistic to expect that each individual will have the same idea of what is reasonable behavior to provide a reasonable amount of public safety. That's why it's not up to individual to say it's okay to drive 55mph by an elementary school.

There are more cars and people on the streets than in the past, this issue will not go away.

I do hope that the California state government comes up with a reasonable testing procedure by the time *I* turn seventy, hopefully before that because of the huge aging Baby Boomer population that makes this an increasingly important issue every day.

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Posted by perspective
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Someone posted this in the other related thread but worth highlighting considering the mis-representative information in the above article.

"One-third of Palo Alto's population already is 55 and older, according to the U.S. Census."

#1: Driver-based crash rates were highest for drivers ages 16-17 and decreased until ages 60-69, at which point they essentially leveled off.

And after it does start heading down-hill....

#2: Drivers in their 70's were involved in approximately the same number of crashes per mile driven as drivers in their 30's
#3: Drivers ages 80-84 had mileage-based crash rates similar to drivers ages 25-59
#4: Drivers ages 85 and older had mileage-based crash rates similar to drivers ages 20-24

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Posted by perspective
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Might want to also remind people of what happened at Addison School: Web Link

"A young driver did several thousand dollars in damage to a building at Addison Elementary School on Saturday evening, Feb. 25, after she "panicked" and hit the gas pedal after backing into a tree."

It was pure luck there were no serious injuries.

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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 1, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Avenidas offers a very inexpensive solution for seniors who cannot or should not drive for whatever reason. Simply contact Avenidas and ask for its Door-to-Door driving service that covers Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City, Mountain View and parts of Los Altos and Portola Valley. Volunteers like myself take seniors anywhere they need to go every weekday between 8 and 5 PM. Try this friendly and convenient service.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Aug 1, 2014 at 1:40 pm

I've been hit TWICE by people in their 30s who were on CELL PHONES. Both times I was stopped at a light.

Everyday I see drivers weaving all over the road because they are on the phone.

Are we going to have a class on driving while on the phone too? AND, how about some enforcement of the law?

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Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 1, 2014 at 1:47 pm

ChrisC is a registered user.

Unfortunately one cannot hide their age like one can hide their cell phone and their texts. The statistics, as reported by AARP, are clear that seniors are responsible for far fewer accidents than younger demographics. Seniors should all rake the AARP mature driving course. It is excellent in that it makes us aware of what abilities do decline and how to compensate for them. Maybe DMV should require that course.

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Posted by mark gilles
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 1, 2014 at 2:24 pm

There are good points made by those concerned about maintaining mobility and independence for elderly suburban residents. I think it is important to note that age alone is not the determining factor in driver safety, it is also important to note if the person is frail. Many of the problems seem to be with the very old drivers, 85-90 who typically have more severe physical and cognitive limitations. I think the numbers cited by AARP generally define elderly drivers as 70, however if we looked strictly at the drivers who are 85 years or older we might draw a different conclusion. The point is that older drivers and their families should think about the harm they might cause to others. It is important not to focus solely on the needs of the elderly driver, community safety needs to be considered.

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Posted by perspective
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2014 at 2:29 pm

#4: Drivers ages 85 and older had mileage-based crash rates similar to drivers ages 20-24

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Posted by Pearl
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 1, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Pearl is a registered user.

To report a potentially unsafe driver, go to this Department of Motor Vehicles website for the information and the form to fill out:

Web Link

You can also write a letter and/or call a Driver Safety Branch Office listed on the above-given DMV website.

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Posted by Honor
a resident of another community
on Aug 1, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Honor is a registered user.

By now most of us have heard the saying "It takes a village to raise a child." Perhaps its time to extend that adage to read, "It takes a village to help our elders." Belinda, Janet and Dana have already offered some excellent solutions regarding the issues and hazards that are often presented by older drivers. What it amounts to is "audience participation." That's right. You and me. We can no longer stand on the sidelines, pointing the finger at other entities (the DMV, the government, etc.) and expect to see any meaningful results.

My 87 year old neighbor no longer drives (thank goodness. Oh my!!). A few of us, in addition to his grown daughter do the driving for him when he's unable to walk or take public transportation. On strictly a personal basis, this has allowed me to get to know Ed as I wouldn't have otherwise. What do I get out of it? Stories. Lots and lots of good stories (many of which I've heard innumerable time but who cares?). Sometimes we just go uptown for a cup of coffee and a chat. Most of all, I get that deep sense of satisfaction that one feels when helping another person. And I can go to sleep at night knowing that there's one less wobbly driver on the road. Priceless.

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Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 1, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Highlighting a bunch of helpful resources does not eliminate the danger because not everyone will use those resources.

It is still the government's responsibility to create the right procedures to ensure that the people who are using public roads are those who can do so in an manner that is reasonably safe to the public.

What if yesterday's driver already knew about the Avenidas driving service but decided to take his own car anyhow? The threat still exists.

At some point in history, there was asbestos insulation and lead paint, both known carcinogens. Sure, you could say, "Hey, there's fiberglass insulation and titanium paint which are safer." Guess what, that's doesn't help the kids who end up going to school in a building made with asbestos and lead.

It's up to the public to increase public awareness to get the government to adapt policies, whether it be building code, domestic partnerships, or installing a traffic light at a dangerous intersection.

It is in fact VERY VERY VERY important to point fingers at the government if they are not doing an adequate job at ensuring reasonable public safety. ***THAT'S THEIR JOB.*** The laws written 10-20 years ago may not be adequate for today's changing world.

Yes, it's important for every one to be aware that they have a part in contributing to the safety of others as well as themselves, but what happened yesterday is a clear example that there was nothing those people who were injured at University Cafe could have done to prevent the accident.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 1, 2014 at 4:04 pm

I agree with Jay Park, government's responsibility is right smack here, and our local state politicians should address the issues of driver competency, public safety. our CA state legislators seem more interested in spending us into oblivion, but here is a concrete issue deserving attention. WILL they pay attention to this (and perhaps, change the state driving tests, rules and etc...)?

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Posted by Matt Gurwell
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 1, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I do not know any of the families from this tragedy, but first and foremost I would like to extend my sincere "best-wishes" to everyone involved.

As a retired Ohio State Trooper, I have personally delivered many death notifications to families of tragedies such as this. As a result of those experiences, in 2008 I founded Keeping Us Safe.

Keeping Us Safe is a national organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families. "Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for older drivers and their families" serves as the foundation of our family-centered "Beyond Driving with Dignity" program.

For families that might benefit from third-party, impartial intervention in resolving this very delicate and sensitive issue, we offer you our Certified "Beyond Driving with Dignity" professionals. These individuals have been specially trained and certified in the "Enhanced Self-Assessment Program" for older drivers.

Our “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals are deployed throughout the United States and Canada.

Keeping Us Safe and the “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program have been recognized by the NY Times, the Kiplinger Retirement Report, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, The Huffington Post, and the National Institute on Aging’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center.

The "Beyond Driving with Dignity" program is designed to help older drivers with diminishing driving skills make a smooth transition from the driver's seat to the passenger seat without deterioration to their dignity, personal pride or independence.

Our programs are designed to save lives while simultaneously helping to ease the burden of the family as they find themselves faced with this very challenging issue. I have said many times before that as the founder of Keeping Us Safe, I would much rather have these difficult conversations now, rather than having a State Trooper knocking on your front door tomorrow.

We also two group presentations for the public:

- A Safe Drive Through the Aging Process, and
- Adults with Aging Parent Drivers

As well as CEU programs for nurses, social workers and law enforcement personnel.

Give us the opportunity to help keep a similar nightmare from occurring in your family or in your community. For more information, visit Keeping Us Safe at Web Link or call us toll free at 877-907-8841.

Again, my sincere and heartfelt condolences to everyone involved in this completely avoidable tragedy.

Matt Gurwell
Founder, Keeping Us Safe

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Posted by Back to basics
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 1, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Seniors only? Uh,...try every Palo Alto driver! Worst on the entire Peninsula.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 1, 2014 at 5:27 pm

It might not have been 'confusing the brake with the accelerator'. In MANY autos, the brake and the accelerator are very, very close together...and especially hazardous for men where shoe soles can be very wide depending on size, style e.g. hiking boots, athletic shoes, Take a look at the placement. Auto designers must change this. It's been a problem for years especially in smaller and foreign cars. The driver in this case was driving a Nissan.

This afternoon there was an accident at Lytton and Middlefield- southbound. Who was driving? Maybe the press should state the ages of everyone involved in an accident - or a DUI. THAT would be an eye opener, not that we didn't suspect that.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 1, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Simple solution to the shoe problem, wear driving shoes. If you have large feet, then on a test drive realize that a car with pedals close together is probably not the car for you.

In the same way that if your head touches the roof of the car, it is a bad car for you, if the pedals are uncomfortably close, it is not a good choice.

Some cars suit smaller people and others suit larger people. Cars are not a one fit suits everybody.

Can't use large feet, large shoes as an excuse. Sorry.

Hate to say this, but a stick shift is a much safer option as mixing up the pedals would cause a stall, not a surge forward/backwards into innocent people.

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Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 1, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Resident is correct. You can't use large feet/clunky shoes as an excuse.

If you can't operate a given motor vehicle in a safe manner, get out of the driver's seat and walk away from that vehicle. THAT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO OTHERS. That means if a particular car's design doesn't work for you, DON'T BUY THAT CAR.

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 1, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From Mercury News:
"The elderly driver who struck and injured five people in downtown Palo Alto on Thursday while trying to parallel park has been notified to take an "emergency retest" at the Department of Motor Vehicles to see if his license should be taken away, a police spokesman said.

Such notices are issued when police have concerns about someone's ability to operate a motor vehicle, Palo Alto police Lt. Zach Perron said Friday. The driver, who has only been identified as a San Jose resident in his 90s, has just five days to take the test."

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Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 1, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Please, let's not go overboard on telling all seniors to stop driving because they might not drive the way younger people do. My car was parked on Webster St one evening while I dined with my husband. We are both seniors. Suddenly there came a call from the police to please come outside. Imagine my distraught as I saw the damage to my car, damage severe enough to render my car a total loss.
Why? An 18 year old driver was in a hurry and did not yield to a vehicle on Webster St. The second driver, also considerably less than 50 years old, may have been speeding. The result? Ms 18 year old hit Ms approx 30 year old causing her car to hit mine.
Suddenly I was without a means of transportation. At the time my car was parked within 8 inches of the curb, parallel to it and well within the marked space.
The fault was not a senior. The person was considerably younger.
I stop or all stop signs, yield to oncoming traffic, don't run red lights, and obey speed limits. How about you?
Bad driving knows no age limits.

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Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 1, 2014 at 10:44 pm


No one here is telling all seniors to stop driving.

The focus here is for an organization (like the DMV) to create a set of assessments that would identify specific seniors whose motor coordination skills and decision making aptitude have declined to a point where driving a motor vehicle on public roads becomes a serious risk to others.

There is no call here to eliminate driving at age 70, 75, 80, 85 whatever.

And stop bringing up youth accident rates. THAT IS NOT THE POINT HERE. An 18-year-old driver wasn't the one who crashed into University Cafe yesterday.

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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2014 at 12:30 am

Saying hello to a stranger on the street or driving with a bit more care are acts of generosity. Conceding the basic goodwill of my fellow citizens, even when I disagree with them, is an act of trust. By greeting us as she did, in the midst of a white neighborhood and a racially charged era, Sara was generous when nobody forced her to be, and trusting when there was no reason to be. Of such risks is true civility constructed.
Stephen L. Carter, from "Civility..."

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Posted by Honor
a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2014 at 7:31 am

Honor is a registered user.

Thank you Matt Gurwell for your very helpful and informative information. I for one had never heard of the "Keeping us Safe" or "Beyond Driving with Dignity"; I'll bet there are many others who hadn't either. The more education that ALL of us can attain, the better.

Its apparent from the number of heartfelt postings regarding this very disturbing situation that many citizens of the community have concerns and are looking for ways in which to mitigate the problem. And as with most of life's vexing situations, there are a myriad of layers as well a plethora of solutions. There isn't ONE solution, rather a multiplicity of steps that must be taken.

Again, many thanks to Matt Gurwell for his invaluable information. Let's keep on learning, doing our part and above all, DRIVING SAFELY.

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Posted by Marroll
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 2, 2014 at 12:56 pm

We have a minimum driving age for all the right reasons. Be it maturity, preparedness, etc. There are probably a number of 14-year-olds who could technically drive safely. Even safer than many adults. But generally speaking we set a minimum age because it's the smart thing to do. Most kids at that age aren't ready to take on the responsibility of driving.

Same should go for elderly drivers. There should be a base line maximum driving age for the same reason. There are probably some 85-year-olds who drive every bit as well as they've ever had. But generally speaking, common sense tells us that it reaches a point on the aging end that it's probably not a good idea.

Drivers can always be retested if they demonstrate that their driving skills have been diminished and become hazardous. We can't rely on that alone. Often time the retesting requirement doesn't arise until after some tragic even like this takes place. I'm not sure what the maximum age should be, but I would think that it should apply before someone hits 90.

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Posted by Not again
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 2, 2014 at 1:07 pm

[Post removed.]

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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