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San Diego Seniors Address The Problem Of “Pedal Misapplication”

UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER Angela Lau reports that accidents involving “Pedal Misapplication” by senior drivers are increasing, and it is of great concern in San Diego and throughout California because of the numerous fatal crashes involving elderly drivers 85 and older. San Diego police Detective Dan Wall said “I get these cases maybe one week, and three the next week”.

One of the worst accidents occurred at a Farmers’ Market in Santa Monica in 2003, which resulted in 10 wrongful deaths and 63 injured. This is in addition to the accident I previously wrote about, which took place at a Costco parking lot in San Diego involving the 86-year-old Ray Elder, and Miguel Rodriguez last month.

According to Dr. Peter Rosen, director of the Sharp Memorial Hospital Rehabilitation Centers Driving Performance Lab, “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 .”  In talking to seniors at the San Marcos senior center, 63-year-old Ed Mosler, a San Marcos resident, said that  the majority of the pedal mistakes his friends have made happen due to stressful circumstances.” They didn’t move their feet fast enough to hit the right pedal. Their legs weren’t as strong.”

Researchers have linked pedal misapplication to cognitive impairment, citing a study which tested 180 seniors ages 65 to 89 in a simulator.  They concluded that a third of the participants applied the gas pedal by mistake. More than half of the participants suffered from some degree of cognitive impairment. Even though pedal misapplication can happen to any driver, seniors are more likely to suffer lack of sleep, physical and cognitive deterioration, or take medication that can impair their judgment, usually putting them and others at risk of accidents resulting in serious injury.

Applicable California Law

In my previous post I point out that California has no age restrictions on licensing elderly drivers; however, drivers are required to drive safely and have basic competency. California Department of Motor Vehicles offers an eight-hour course for drivers over 55 years of age. The State Legislature has proposed changes to tighten regulations requiring seniors to submit annual doctor certifications. Currently in California the DMV requires drivers over 70 to take written and vision tests every five years.

As the population age and the number of elderly drivers increases, auto accidents involving seniors will continue to increase as well. Since San Diego is a popular retirement community, there is a greater likelihood that accidents due to pedal misapplication will occur. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in any accident contact an experienced personal injury attorney.