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San Diego Elderly Drivers Speak Out About “Pedal Misapplication”

UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER Angela Lau reports that the number of accidents caused by “Pedal Misapplication” involving seniors is a growing concern in San Diego and statewide. The highest incidents of fatal crashes involve drivers 85 years-of-age and older. According to San Diego police Detective Dan Wall “I get these cases maybe one one week, and three the next week”.

There have been numerous cases of pedal misapplication in the news the worst being the incident that took place at a farmers market in Santa Monica in 2003 killing 10 and injuring 63. In addition, to the incident I previously wrote about involving 86 year-old Ray Elder of La Jolla and Miguel Rodriguez at the Costco parking lot in San Diego last month.

Dr. Peter Rosen director of Sharp Memorial Hospital Rehabilitation Centers Driving Performance Lab said “As we get older, our neurological processes slow down. Our vision and reaction time slow down,” he said. “The conduction rate at which neurons fire slows, so that our brain function slows. Brain function determines driver fitness — that is 99 percent of it .” At the San Marcos senior center Ed Mosler, 63, of San Marcos said most of the pedal mistakes his friends recounted happened under stressful circumstances. ” They didn’t move their feet fast enough to hit the right pedal. Their legs weren’t as strong”.

Some research, has linked pedal misapplication to cognitive impairment. A study at East Virginia Medical School tested 180 people ages 65 to 89 in a simulator and found that one-third stepped on the gas pedal by mistake. Over half of the participants suffered from cognitive impairment. Although, pedal misapplication can happen to drivers of any age, elderly drivers suffering from physical and cognitive deterioration, lack of sleep, or taking medication that could cloud their judgment, often put them, other drivers and pedestrians at risk of auto accidents resulting in serious injury.

Applicable California Law

As stated in my previous post, California has no maximum age restrictions on licensing drivers, however drivers are required to have basic competency to drive safely. The California Department of Motor Vehicles offers a special eight hour course for mature drivers over 55 years of age. Current efforts are being made to have the state legislature tighten regulations on elderly drivers such as requiring annual doctor certification to prove fitness to drive. The California DMV currently requires drivers over 70 to take written and vision tests every five years.

As baby boomers continue to age, the number of elderly drivers and auto accidents involving seniors will grow proportionately. Because San Diego is a popular retirement location for elderly people, we have a great number of older drivers on the road increasing the likelyhood of accidents. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in any accident contact an experienced personal injury attorney.