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Fatal Huntington Beach Pedestrian Accident Raises The Issue of Senior Drivers

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A 70-year-old Huntington Beach man died after he was hit by a car as he crossed at Bolsa Chica Street and Edinger Avenue. According to an article in The Orange County Register, John B. Carpenter was struck by a 2002 Chevy Impala driven by 83-year-old Shirley Constans.

Officials said Carpenter was walking on a marked crosswalk and Constans was making right turn when the pedestrian accident occurred. Investigators are apparently still looking into whether the traffic light was red or green. But they did tell the Register that Constans didn’t seem to be under the influence. No arrest was made. Carpenter was taken to Long Beach Memorial Hospital where he died. Constans reportedly did not suffer any injuries.

This tragic incident raises an important question that rears its head time and again – what should be the criteria for seniors to keep their driving privilege? According to trend studies performed by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, traffic collision rates start climbing for both men and women after they reach 70 years of age. These studies also cite that the increase in at-fault fatal accident becomes particularly dramatic when people hit 80. The study also found that senior drivers are significantly more likely than teens and all other age groups to be making a turn before a crash, especially at intersections.

Given these statistics and several other studies that show drivers over 70 start becoming significantly more dangerous on the road, there should certainly be a more stringent reexamination process for drivers in that age group. The DMV should have mandatory reexaminations starting at 70 rather than wait for events such as excessive tickets, traffic accidents or a report from a physician, family member or a peace officer.

Older drivers are at a higher risk of traffic fatalities because of physical impairments in the following functions that are important for driving: Vision, cognition and motor function. Declines in these functions make older drivers vulnerable in situations that require clear vision, attention and quick response.

These facts make it even more important for seniors to be tested on a regular basis to renew their driver’s licenses – not only for their own safety, but for the safety of others on the road. Here are a few Web sites with information about senior driving safety:

American Association for Retired Persons
Elder Safety

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  • Andy Cortez

    I agree that DMV California should do a mandatory reexaminations.

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