Eyes on the Street: Elderly Driver Crashes into Inner Sunset Restaurant

Photo: Jacob Hendry

The driver of a four-door sedan jumped the curb and crashed into the front of Naan N’ Curry Restaurant on Irving Street at 8th Avenue around noon today. Surprisingly, no one enjoying lunch on the crowded sidewalk was hurt, but the building suffered some serious damage.

Witnesses said the driver, an elderly man who was about 75 years old, was attempting to leave his parking spot when he stepped on the gas instead of the brake. He smashed the car into a set of tables and chairs fronting the restaurant.

“I think we need to give stricter license tests to elderly people,” said one resident who was observing the crash site. “It’s scary.”

Photo: Aaron Bialick

The front of the restaurant now leans slightly forward after a corner of the doorway was damaged. Sand from inside the wall, and vehicle fluid, were splattered on the sidewalk. Officers from the San Francisco Police Department told owner Gohar Rashid the structure could be unfit to bear the load and that it would need to be fixed as soon as possible, although the restaurant was re-opened soon after.

“Normally the street is safe,” said Rashid. “The driver said he didn’t know how it happened.”

Witnesses said the driver appeared shaken and suffered only a hand injury. He was taken away in an ambulance and not cited, according to police.

  • mikesonn

    How could he not be cited??

    And yes, after 60 (or 65), drivers should be tested every other year and every year after 70 (or 75).

  • Anonymous

    It created quite a commotion over here…I would have blogged about it myself since it’s so close to the home office, but I had a deadline for work I had to meet. I’m just glad no one was hurt in the outdoor seating…that could have been bad…

  • Paulposting

    I wonder if the damp weather kept people away from the outside seating. There could have been serious injuries if those tables were occupied.

  • Bob Davis

    Brings back unpleasant memories of the Santa Monica farmers’ market collision of a few years ago.  But if the Legislature tried to require yearly visits to the DMV for those over 70 or 75 (full disclosure: I’m 71) AARP, AAA and other groups would have plenty to say about such a proposal.

  • Ugh, so glad no one was injured. We had a same thing last year on Geary and a man was seriously injured. http://richmondsfblog.com/2010/12/16/man-seriously-injured-by-parking-car-at-geary-7th-avenue/

  • Anonymous

    Love the name of the restaurant!

  • =v= San Francisco clearly needs a “Don’t Be A Jerk” campaign to keep our streets safe.

  • Fireplacetv

    How do insurance premiums change with age? This seems like something the actuaries might pick up before legislators. If the elderly really are at a greater risk of getting into wrecks like this, I’d expect to see an increase in their insurance costs.

  • Anonymous

    Situations like this suggest that in the U.S., states continue to license drivers who shouldn’t be behind the wheel. As transit advocates, it’s important that we connect this with the need for more walkable streets, more and better public transit, and designs for roads, houses, and communities that encourage social relationships.
    In a city as transit-rich as San Francisco, it’s hard to make the case that there are no alternatives to driving for older people. However, because SF is an exception in the state, I have a hard time seeing statewide rules on this being changed. Can you imagine living alone in Orange County, or Stockton, or Santa Rosa and being told you need to stop driving and figure out some other way of feeding yourself and keeping connected with friends and activities?
    I visited my elderly grandmother in suburban Chicago last year after eye surgery that finally ended her ability to drive. One of the first things she asked me was to drive to the McDonald’s 3 blocks away and pick her up some food, because she can’t safely walk even that far. This drove home for me that in addition to more transit and better walkability, we need to keep our eyes on social relationships as well — building and remaking our communities in ways that bring people together and interweave our lives, rather than the decades of building we’ve inherited that focuses on privacy, boundaries, and unhealthy ideas of personal safety that at their extremes aim to shut out the very communities we live in.

  • mikesonn

    The senior citizens of today are of the same generation that built this system. Sadly, reaping what they have sown.

  • Alex

    I guess I’ve come to agree with the AARP here.  Why single out older people?  What about alcoholics?  Epileptics?  Diabetics?  Morbidly obese?  Narcoleptics?  Age isn’t the factor we should be looking at here.  Physical health, mental acuity, and driving skills regardless of age are what we should be looking at.  I’d much rather see Jack LaLanne on the road than Ronald Reagan.

    In general our standards for obtaining and retaining a driver’s license are way too weak.  We need to move towards proper skills based testing (say how to recover from a blowout or accident avoidance) and away from bullshit like what does a polka dotted curb mean?Within our current framework, what would retesting this guy have given us?  He clearly knew, at some point today, where the pedals were…  IMO if you look at a car driven by a geriatric type you’ll often see an inordinate amount of scratches.  My guess is that until they do something /big/ like mow down a farmer’s market crowd, these incidents won’t get reported to the insurance companies.

  • Alex

    Well it was Naan and Curry, so it wasn’t over $500 in property damage…

  • Anonymous

    Being able to drive means being independent for oldsters.  Studies show that when an old person’s license is taken away, it reduces their lifespan by a few years.  Mikesonn, when you are 75, your words will come back to haunt you.

  • Anonymous

    I could have become a subject in this blog, if i wasn’t a tree that saved me. A few years ago an elderly woman driving to CPMC jump the curb and hit a tree with me right next to it. It scared the shit out of me and I jumped into the air reflexively. The woman was more shaken that I do and was taken to the hospital. After I finished the medical check up I thanked the tree by offering a bottle of water. Unlike the car, the tree has sustained no damage.

  • Emily

    If there is very close parking activity, I never am 100% comfortable sitting in seats like that. Never mind just elderly, anyone could make a mistake.

  • Anonymous

    There are plenty of places in the US where anyone who doesn’t drive effectively becomes homebound. This isn’t one of them. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if non-driving old people in SF have lifespans as long or longer than driving ones do (not including people who are forced to stop driving due to ill health.)

  • Anonymous

    @cdbccbbe16fdade271efaa6ed04393f5:disqus You are right: all those examples you gave should also demand our focus. However, it already is illegal to drive drunk and if you have epilepsy (and I would suppose narcolepsy too). But for the others, just like for the elderly, if you have a condition that puts you at higher risk for an accident, then it is only fair that you must be tested more frequently and rigorously to maintain your license (especially since driving a car is a privilege — and a dangerous one at that — and not a right). Right now, the driver licensure process is a joke. That’s what needs to change. As Mikesonn said, over a certain age (probably around 70), you need to be tested more frequently and more rigorously. Similarly, if you have a medical condition which makes you more of a danger on the road, then same applies.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed. It’s nuts that we allow cars on every single block of our cities given how dangerous they are. It’s time we started banning cars on select blocks with heavy pedestrian traffic, walking or sitting. Not every single street in our city needs to be a thruway. People need to learn that they can walk a couple blocks to get wherever they need to be. And exceptions can be made for emergency and maintenance vehicles, of course.

  • Anonymous

    According to the American Journal of Public Health: “Compared with middle-aged drivers, older drivers have about a 3-fold increased risk of crashing per mile driven. However, older persons drive markedly fewer miles annually than middle-aged drivers, resulting in an equivalent annualized risk for crashing”.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447231/
     
     

  • Anonymous

    According to the American Journal of Public Health: “Compared with middle-aged drivers, older drivers have about a 3-fold increased risk of crashing per mile driven. However, older persons drive markedly fewer miles annually than middle-aged drivers, resulting in an equivalent annualized risk for crashing”.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447231/
     
     

  • Anonymous

    According to the American Journal of Public Health: “Compared with middle-aged drivers, older drivers have about a 3-fold increased risk of crashing per mile driven. However, older persons drive markedly fewer miles annually than middle-aged drivers, resulting in an equivalent annualized risk for crashing”.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447231/
     
     

  • Anonymous

    According to the American Journal of Public Health: “Compared with middle-aged drivers, older drivers have about a 3-fold increased risk of crashing per mile driven. However, older persons drive markedly fewer miles annually than middle-aged drivers, resulting in an equivalent annualized risk for crashing”.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447231/
     
     

  • easy

    My 16-month old and I were walking near there yesterday. We need a transportation system that is fault tolerant for both the young and old. With so many cars, easy-to-make mistakes by either a driver or pedestrian have a high chance of killing someone.

  • mikesonn

    @pchazzz:disqus I’m not arguing that. I’m just saying they built this car-dominated landscape and now they are trapped without their car. I’m working hard to reverse that and I will do my best to live out my years where walking/cycling/transit are readily available.

  • Andy Chow

    Even though many seniors did not use transit or bicycling when they were younger, they can certainly learn to use transit today so they can use it with confidence.

    There are several programs that help seniors, including transit travel training, shuttles, and volunteer driving program. While some seniors can use transit most of the time, others require alternate service that can’t effectively be served by existing transit, while they may not necessarily eligible for paratransit.

  • Things like epilepsy are usually a life-long thing, they dont suddenly appear. So when you get your first license, the issue because obvious then.

    But age means massive declines in eyesight and reflexes. You can be perfect at 71 and half blind at 72….but not notice it until it’s too late. And if you’re not being tested, that is a problem that doesnt become apparent until it’s too late.

    Heres what should be done:

    Licenses should last 4 years between ages of 25-65. Every renewal = eye sight and 30 question written test (a real renewal test focusing on new laws and stuff, not rules for 17 year old drivers).

    Every other renewal (8 years) should include the driving test + some kind of physical and psychological test. Doesnt have to be administered by the DMV, can be done with your favorite physician.

    After 65, and below 25, it should be every 2 years, with a driving/physical test every 4 years.

  • @pchazzz – I have to wonder about that study. Old person’s licenses are taken away because they have issues that make them unable to drive – those issues themselves would mean a lower remaining life span compared to someone who is still robust enough to drive. In the absence of license removal, “oldsters” are driving cars without the requisite ability, which anecdotally would reduce one’s lifespan. I’d love to see those studies if you have a link…

  • mikesonn

    @twitter-14678929:disqus Completely agree, but one also can’t deny that being a shut-in adversely effects a person, we are social creators after all. But I think becoming a shut-in due to losing one’s license has little impact when compared to the medical reasons for losing one’s license in the first place.

  • How often does this happen? Do you recall an article recently? Is there an epidemic of cars running into the sidewalk? Probably not. Why are you living you’re life in fear. Go out and enjoy yourself. That hamburger you’re eating is more likely to shorten your life than an outdoor seating accident.

  • Anonymous

    @mark2000:disqus How often does what happen? Cars injuring pedestrians? How about  800 times per year in SF: http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-12-20/news/25209912_1_number-of-pedestrian-fatalities-traffic-fatalities-transit-problem

    You don’t think that warrants doing something about it? Sure, not all of them are cars driving up on sidewalks, but the problem is 4000 lb vehicles with hundreds of horsepower and drivers whose senses are dulled being anywhere near pedestrians. It’s amazing we allow this at all without severe limitations.

    And nobody said the hamburger wouldn’t shorten your life also … just not talking about that right now.

  • Fireplacetv

    This is exactly the kind of research I was looking for earlier. Thanks.

  • Greg

    Naan n’ Curry does not appear to be wearing a helmet.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Eyes on the Street: SFMTA Installs Four New Bike Corrals

|
More city businesses and their cycling customers are enjoying new on-street bike parking after the SFMTA installed four recently approved corrals, repurposing four parking spots for motor vehicles with forty-six spots for bicycles. A total of nine have been installed since the bike injunction was lifted last August. “As you can see, it hasn’t even been a […]

As Tenderloin Crosswalks Get Safer, KPIX Weeps for Lost Parking Spots

|
The SFMTA recently implemented a simple measure to improve visibility at crosswalks in the Tenderloin, a neighborhood with very high concentrations of both pedestrian injuries and children. Corners at 80 intersections got the “daylighting” treatment, which improves visibility by clearing parked cars that obscure sightlines between drivers and people in crosswalks. It’s one of the latest efforts in the city’s […]

Drivers Hit Two Seniors in Two Days at Castro and 19th Crosswalk

|
Two seniors were injured by drivers in a crosswalk at 19th and Castro Streets in separate crashes on Tuesday and Wednesday. Bryan Goebel, Streetsblog SF’s first editor, and his neighbor Hank Cancel happened upon the aftermath of the crashes. Both victims sustained minor injures, according to Goebel and Cancel. But they said close calls with […]