Coming home from work on April 23 during the noon hour, I observed a bizarre car accident located 1 ½ miles from our house. Right on Center Road in Venice, Florida, a car was on its side, with the driver’s side in contact with the pavement, a blocked off lane, police cars, and two other cars, one which had its front end crushed in, and the third one, untouched but the driver was still behind the wheel. What could have possible caused such an accident where there are no stop signs or traffic signals?
The news reported that an elderly lady stopped at the stop sign at Larchwood Dr which turns out onto Center Road, then rear ended another car, which in turn spun out of control and collided with another car. The driver of the one who rear ended the second car was driven by a Tamara Wood, aged 81. The one who was rear ended was Bjarne Magnusson, aged 75. A third car, which had been towed away from the scene, was driven by a Michele Baker, aged 39. Baker had a passenger in her car, Joyce Newcomb, who was 85. Baker was driving in the opposite direction, got hit by Magnusson, when her car rolled over. While the details alone sound frightful to anyone who watched the accident happening when it did, it raises the age-old question: Should the elderly be allowed to drive at all?
The simple answer to that is, no. Ever since moving to Florida, one thing I have discovered on the roads down here, is that the reflexes of the elderly are not as quick as when they were young, compounded to the fact that many times, they cannot pull off the roads quickly enough around a corner, into a parking lot, or anywhere else. Newcomb’s injuries were considered severe after being transported to the hospital, while the other drivers involved were also transported to the hospital. While a witness claimed that Wood stopped at the stop sign before pulling out onto Center Road, it seems like some other unreported factors may have come into play: Did Wood pull out right into another car (Magnusson’s) when she went onto Center Road, heading East? Or did she not stop at the stop sign at all? Assuming that Magnusson, whose wife Joan was also a passenger, was simply doing the speed limit and not making an unsafe lane change on Center (the same with Baker), there is definitely a few missing factors here, even though the Florida State Police are investigating the cause of the accident.
While there are alternatives to seniors driving, such as buses, vans (especially those available through assisted living apartments) and friends, methods which are much safer than getting behind the wheel, some seniors, plus state senators, who feel that the elderly should not be prevented from driving, even though all of the states consider driving to be a privilege and not an absolute right. After a certain number of infractions are made, the state DMV can legally withdraw these driving privileges.
Incidentally, the day I went down to the DMV to get my license after we moved to Florida, I was waiting for my photo to develop when I noticed a frail, old lady in a wheelchair who could barely stand up (she required the aid of someone to help her stand) to have her photo taken. There is no way someone in that condition can competently drive a motor vehicle. Governor Crist, please do something to help keep Florida roads and highways safe. Thank you.