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Elderly Driver Hits Motorcycle, 12-year-old Boy Killed

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A 12-year-old boy, who was riding in a motorcycle driven by his father, died after their motorcycle was hit by a 90-year-old driver making a left turn. According to an article in the Napa Valley Register, Eduardo Palafox was a passenger on a motorcycle driven by his dad, 32-year-old Jose Cruz Palafox-Iona.

The driver of a Subaru, driven by 90-year-old Marilyn Heinricher, collided with the motorcycle when the woman made a left turn, the article said. Paramedics performed CPR on the boy at the scene, but he reportedly died at the hospital. Both Heinricher and the boy’s father reportedly suffered minor injuries. Both father and son were said to be wearing helmets. Also, an accident reconstruction team is investigating whether Heinricher failed to yield right of way while making the left turn.

This is another tragic case involving an elderly driver possibly making an error on the road that turned out to be fatal. What a tragic loss for the young boy’s family. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Palafox family.

This incident, like many others, also brings back the issue of elderly drivers. In the next 20 years, the number of elderly drivers (people 70 and over) is expected to triple in the United States. Statistics show that older drivers are more likely than younger ones to be involved in multi-vehicle crashes, particularly at intersections. Interestingly, statistics by the Department of Motor Vehicles show that elderly drivers are most likely to get into an auto accident while making a left turn, as it happened in this Napa case.

Research shows that around the age of 65, drivers face an increased risk of being involved in an auto accident and after the age of 75, the risk of driver fatality increases sharply because older drivers are more vulnerable to crash-related injury and death. Three behavioral factors in particular are said to contribute to these statistics:

1. Poor judgment in making left-hand turns
2. Drifting within the traffic lane and
3. Decreased ability to change behavior in response to an unexpected or rapidly changing situation.

This accident and others we see everyday involving senior drivers, emphasizes the need for more stringent regulations, especially relating to retesting. Senior drivers must be made to renew their licenses more frequently with driving and vision tests so their ability to follow safety procedures and react to situations can be properly gauged. It’s understandable that the ability to drive affects seniors’ ability to be independent. But it’s certainly not worth the life of another human being. The errors these drivers make can sometimes be too costly and irreparable.

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