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Bakersfield Fatal Pedestrian Accident Involves Senior Driver

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Marianne Harris, who was walking on a Bakersfield Street, died of critical injuries she suffered in a pedestrian accident after being struck by a car driven by 84-year-old Charles Nowatzki, the Bakersfield Californian reports. Nowatzki was driving a 1997 Crown Victoria east on Columbus Street and was passing the intersection at Baylor Street when he struck Harris, who was walking north across Columbus Street in the crosswalk, an earlier article states.

Nowatzki and a passenger in the car were uninjured. Police say speed, alcohol or drugs were not a factor in this pedestrian accident. Investigators are still trying to determine how and why the accident occurred. If you witnessed this accident, please call Officer Patrick Dillard at 661-326-3967 or Bakersfield Police at 661-327-7111.

My deepest condolences to Harris’ family and to Marianne’s friends.

What strikes me is the age of the driver’s age, 84-years old. If I were an attorney representing Harris’ family, I would look into Nowatzki’s driving record, his physical condition/health and more importantly, if he was fit enough to drive. I would want to know if in fact Nowatzki was capable of driving safely. If he wasn’t, was his family aware of the fact and let him drive anyway.

I would also investigate if their was something about the intersection where this California pedestrian accident happened that contributed to Nowatzki not seeing Harris in enough time to react appropriately. Is this a dangerous intersection? Did the intersection itself contribute to the accident?

Too many auto accidents in California are caused by senior citizens, who want to retain their independence and continue to drive when they should be turning over their car keys. Research by the California Department of Motor Vehicles 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. Behavioral patterns such as poor judgment while making turns and drifting within the traffic lane contribute to these statistics. Seniors also seem to exhibit a decreased ability to change behavior in response to an unexpected or rapidly changing situation, the study points out.

This Bakersfield pedestrian accident and others we see every day that involve senior drivers, emphasize the need for more stringent regulations, especially with license renewal and retesting for the elderly. Senior drivers must be required to renew their licenses more frequently with mandatory driving and vision tests so their ability to follow safety procedures and react to situations can be properly gauged.

With all the virtual video game technology we have these days, it wouldn’t take much to develop a virtual driving test that could simultaneously test vision and reaction time behind the wheel of a car in virtual space. In this way we could more accurately judge the ability of our elderly drivers to continue to command their vehicles.

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