Centenarian Crashes into Children: Should There Be an Age Limit for Drivers?

Last month, two accidents, one at City Hall, possibly caused by two drivers over 85 happened in Laguna Niguel. We ask again at what age your license should be revoked?

A car driven by a 100-year-old man struck a group of elementary school children Wednesday, injuring nine children and two adults in South Los Angeles.

In July, there were two accidents possibly caused by drivers over 85 in Laguna Niguel. One was at  in damages and the other involved a

in Laguna Niguel an Orange County sheriff's lieutenant said at the time. 

Jordan was involved in a four-vehicle collision at Crown Valley Parkway and Greenfield Drive, suffering a broken arm, and taken to Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center, where she was declared dead,according to Orange County Sheriff's.

In South LA, Paramedics took the 11 injured people to a hospital. Four of the children were seriously injured. The accident happened at a South Los Angeles elementary school just after classes let out, authorities said. Driver Preston Carter, who said he turns 101 next month, told ABC7 he was backing out of a parking lot and his brakes failed. According to the Los Angeles Times, Carter has a spotless driving record.

Investigators have not indicated that the age of the driver was a factor in the crash. California does not discriminate against the elderly when it comes to issuing driver’s licenses. The Department of Motor Vehicles does encourage drivers to reassess their reflexes as they grow older.

According to California Highway Patrol these types of accidents are not isolated. It also offers a class for seniors called Age Well Drive Smart program for senior drivers. Here are some statistics for the cities of Laguna Niguel and Dana Point:

Collisions and Victims Where at Least One Driver at 75 years or older 

Cities: Dana Point and Laguna Niguel  2009 through 2010  19-JUL-12

Total Collisions Fatal Injury Property Damage Only Victims Killed Victims Injured Collision Year City Name 2009 126 0 22 104 0 37 Dana Point 75 0 8 67 0 14 Laguna Niguel 51 0 14 37 0 23 2010 94 0 21 73 0 32 Dana Point 54 0 8 46 0 10 Laguna Niguel 40 0 13 27 0 22 TOTALS 220 0 43 177 0 69 Total Collisions Fatal Injury PDO Victims Killed Victims Injured Collision Year City Name 2009 59 0 12 47 0 19 Dana Point 33 0 4 29 0 7 Laguna Niguel 26 0 8 18 0 12 2010 46 0 12 34 0 18 Dana Point 20 0 4 16 0 6 Laguna Niguel 26 0 8 18 0 12 TOTALS 105 0 24 81 0 37

The California Department of Motor Vehicles reports that there are more than 5.5 million drivers over the age of 55 in California. More than 2.5 million are 70 or older. 

The Department of Motor Vehicles does not take away your driver license when you reach a certain age. Your mental and/or physical condition or your inability to follow traffic laws and rules regardless of age determines whether your license is renewed, restricted, suspended, or revoked. All customers age 70 or older must renew their driver license in person at a DMV office.

Here are some comments from the earlier story:

The poll is difficult. Once again this a is up to DMV & family. I had understood a driver over 70 had to be tested every 2 years but maybe some else knows if that is true or not. If not the state lets a lot of people down.

The Department of Motor Vehicles does not take away your driver license when you reach a certain age. Your mental and/or physical condition or your inability to follow traffic laws and rules regardless of age determines whether your license is renewed, restricted, suspended, or revoked. All customers age 70 or older must renew their driver license in person at a DMV office.

Debbie, do people over 70 renewing their licenses have to take a driving test or are they granted a renewed license just by showing up at the DMV? It would be safer for everyone if they were required to take a driving test just to ensure that they are able to drive safely. It can be really difficult to speak with a loved one who is older and not really able to drive safely anymore; nobody wants to be dependent on others for transportation, and our public transportation is not the best, unfortunately, but the safety of all people on the road is, I think, the number one priority.

I have a friend that just turned 70 & she had to go in for the written test. Don't know if you're ever required to dot he road test as long as you haven't had any citations or accidents. My question to Debbie was, how often do they have to do that writtten test. I do know law enforcemnt can take your license on the spot if you're the cause of an accident or they feel you really made a dumb mistake & you're required to re-test within 7 days.

Sarah: I believe it is up to the DMV to decide. You might want to check with them. Someone I l know who is 70 had to take the written test recently because their license was about the expire. Others I know who are over 70 were able to renew by mail.

Probably a little over 5 years ago my Dad's license was up for renewal & he would have been just over 90 w mild dementia. He just had to take the written test & it took him 3x to pass! Plus he messed up on the renewal form but DMV clerks didn't even pick up on that.

So maybe if they don't pass the written test the 1st time for renewal, maybe that should trigger requiring a driving test. I mean, how hard is that written test? If we have been driving for some time & just do a little review, it shouldn't be hard to pass.

But you can anonymously (so your parent doesn't get mad at your & doesn't even know who reported them) report people if they should not be driving. Years ago my cousin had difficulty trying to report our mutual aunt who had Alzheimers I should not have been driving. They didn't seem interested until she got the social workers w her medical plan involved. It wasn't hard at all for me to call. If you click on the CHP link in the article & then click on resources it has info on reporting someone.

My Aunt, living in Chicago, is 87 and just had her license renewed. I can tell you for a fact, she should NOT be driving.

I work closely with a lot of elderly people and I feel that most of them are good drivers. Almost all of them are intelligent, active, and have excellent mental acuity. You need to worry when a person becomes noticeably more forgetful. Accidents happen when they feel lost, confused, or become disoriented while driving.

Personally, I feel that there should be no set age when a person’s license is revoked. Ability to drive should be determined on a case by case basis and elderly people should take written and behind the wheel exams when renewing their driver’s license. It causes less stress on the family and helps maintain the elderly person’s dignity when their driver’s license is taken away by the DMV rather than by their child.

To help put things into perspective, I would be interested in seeing the same graph for collisions involving people under the age of 25.

Stephanie: great idea for a follow-up.

Shirley: I think you have to take the test only when your license needs renewal. It is best to check with DMV as there are some exceptions I believe.

There are plenty of under-70 drivers who also don't have the skills to safely drive or don't know the rules of the road. I'm for having periodic behind the wheel tests for all ages. No need to discriminate based on age.

@Ed: great points, thanks for the comments. We will be doing a follow-up with a different age bracket.

My Dad had mild dementia but seemed to be doing ok still driving around town. But then one day I had driven his car & parked it differently in the garage (the way the wheel was turned) than he was used to. Rather than simply back up the way the wheel was turned, he tried to fight it & knocked the trash cans askew that were on the passenger side just inside the garage door. Later I noticed that he had also scraped the plastic side panel on my car which was parked in the driveway.

This was right before his license was due to renew & I think he was just over 90. I was hoping he would fail the test. He was not required to take a driving test--only the written test. Took 3x to pass written but he passed finally.

In addition, we had misplaced the pre-filled renewal form so he had to fill one out. I was dismayed that the DMV clerks were apparently not trained to pick up on signs of dementia by the way the form was filled out. He made a mistake on his SS#--I think he only had part of the # & there were a couple of other things that should have been red flags!

So I think that is one thing that needs improvement--the DMV should train clerks about signs to watch for that might indicate that the driver should be required to take a driving test.

In CA you can report someone anonymously. That triggered his dr having to report diagnosis of dementia & Alzheimers-tho he didn't really have Alzheimers. That did it & they pulled his lic.

One other related issue/resource that is listed on the link in the CHP resource link is that AARP has a Mature Driver Improvement course for those 50 or 55 & over & it should qualify the person for a discount on auto insurance. I have taken it several times now. it seems to be for the more mature who are starting to have a few issues, but a previous time I took it from Dan Levine who was excellent. I think I'm a pretty good driver, but I think we all sometimes overlook certain things--such as not looking over our shoulder when changing lanes & so not seeing someone in our blind spots. I've had people almost hit me who didn't look, but just used mirrors. Since taking that course I have been careful to look over my shoulder after checking the mirrors 1st & several times it has saved me from either hitting or cutting off another car.

But it also has tips for those who are getting older--such things as making a series of right turns rather than 1 left turn.

The Class is given at Norm Murray Sr Ctr in Mission Viejo, in Casta del Sol in MV & probably other places & is an 8 hour course--2 mornings. Very worth taking.

Is there an age at which drivers should give up the keys? Or is the danger of crashes caused by elderly drivers blown out of proportion?



- City News Service and Patch Editor, Debbie L. Sklar, contributed to this report.

Kathi August 31, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Very good points! Yes, people's abilities do tend to decline as they get older, but that varies immensely. I think also that DMV clerks should be better trained to spot potential signs of impairment that would trigger a requirement for a driving test. As I posted before, my Dad did not do very well filling out the his renewal application & I was hoping that they would pick up on that. Then I was hoping he wouldn't pass the written test. But finally on the 3rd time he passed. If someone does not pass the written test--which is pretty easy--they should be required to take a driving test. Maybe 1 failure ok, but after 2, they definitely should be required to take a driving test. & that should apply to younger people as well. I see drivers all the time who I wonder if they got the same type of driving instruction that I did way back in the dark ages, lol. But I guess maybe many didn't. Back when I was a teen, we had classroom driving classes as part of the curriculum. & then there was the behind the wheel class that I think was an elective--I think I took it in Summer school or something.
Kathi August 31, 2012 at 09:31 PM
It can sometimes be hard, even for family members living w an older driver, to tell how impaired they are. It is not always obvious, & they themselves may still think they are a very good driver. I know this was the case w my Dad. It took one time where he had trouble backing his car out of the garage (because I had parked it w the wheels turned differently than what he was used to, so instead of just backing the way the wheels were turned, he fought it & bashed the trash cans on 1 side & then scraped my car--that was in the driveway--on the other side. I realized after that, they he should not be driving. He could still drive ok, if he didn't have to make quick decisions, but of course driving may involve that at any time. You can anonymously report a person to the DMV. They have special DMV places that deal w those kinds of issues. As I recall there is one in Irvine. Of course another issue is that if they still have a car after losing their license, they may still drive as they may be in denial about their lack of ability, since they still know the learned behaviors of driving. But the cognitive part--where they have to react to things may be quite diminished. So not sure what the solution is, but some thought should also be given to ways to legally remove the car from drivers who have lost their licenses. Notifying a family member might be 1 step.
Tim Wyman August 31, 2012 at 10:38 PM
My wife was at the San Clemente DMV the other day, an elderly man (around 75 yrs of age) drove in and smashed his car against the fence, backed up then hit a pole. Then walked into the DMV and renewed his license with no problem.
Kathi September 01, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Well, maybe they need security cameras in the parking lot, w someone looking at them in real time so that when that happens, they immediately refer the person for a driving test. & I've heard that San Clemente is reputed to be more lenient than Laguna Hills for elderly drivers. I've heard that from several sources. My Dad's experience was at the Laguna Hills DMV. But that is govt bureacrats--they generally aren't paid to leave their brains in gear, but just to do their jobs. Not saying all are that way, but probably even if they did raise a question, their supervisor wouldn't know what to do w it. Of course I also wish that CHP would do something to discourage tail gating. & to remind people of what a safe following distance is. Most cars are following to close to the car in front of them--going 75 mph or so to be able to stop w out running into that car if traffic even slowed, let alone came to a stop. & it seems that they don't even take that into consideration in crash reports--all they seem to look at is speed, ignoring the fact that a person could be driving 80 mph w a good following distance more safely than someone driving 65 who is 1-2 car lengths behind the car in front. I realize that's a different issue, but it undoubtedly is a major reason for the chain reaction crashes.
Kathi September 03, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Sounds like a good idea. & they should especially be checking whether drivers look over their shoulder before changing lanes. I think that is one of those things we tend to neglect which can have very bad consequences. Had a really good teacher for the Mature Driving Improvement Class several years ago, that really impressed that on me. & its saved me from some crashes or cutting people off when I looked as I was about to change lanes--after checking my mirrors--& saw there was a car there in the blind spot from the mirrors. But I've also almost been hit by other drivers who didn't look over their shoulder before changing lanes. & the other thing is safe following distance on freeways that most people don't leave. I bet if they checked drivers for those 2 things periodically that the # of crashes on surface streets & freeways would drop quite a bit.


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