Driving tragedy raises issue about elderly

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 18, 2003

As of this writing there are 10 people dead because a car ran through a crowed farmer’s market Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif.

The driver was not an angry young person bent on a mission, not even a middle-aged one with a vendetta against certain types of people, but an 86-year-old man who apparently just accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake pedal and could not stop.

Tests so far show that Russell Weller of that city had neither booze nor drugs in his blood that may have affected his ability.


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Simply, his competency behind the wheel is now in question.

Mr. Wheeler, his family, and the survivors of those killed will have to live this tragedy. The only consolation that comes to mind is that malice was evidently not a factor, which is no small thing these days.

Nonetheless, the issue of what to do about the elderly who continue to drive is now in the forefront of everyone’s minds.

As we see it, enforce existing laws pertaining to people’s ability to drive, especially when they’re in the 70s or 80s. There’s no real need to make new laws forbidding people to drive after a certain age. The rules you make today could affect you later, and you’ll then wish they weren’t so.

We once read of a man who kept his car, paid taxes and the like, but hired a neighbor’s son to chauffer him at scheduled times. Not everyone can afford or manage to do likewise, but it’s an idea that may give the elderly some thought, especially when they consider that it could just as easily have happened to them.