SFPD Sends 86-Year-Old Driver On Her Way After She Injures Mom and Child

SFPD returned an 86-year-old driver (left) to her SUV after she hit a mother and child in a crosswalk outside the Stonestown Galleria. Images: KTVU

An 86-year-old driver hit a 45-year-old mother and her 5-year-old daughter in a crosswalk yesterday at 20th Avenue and Buckingham Way, outside the Stonestown Galleria mall. According to KTVU, the driver was taken away in an ambulance “for an undisclosed ailment” but was soon returned to her SUV to drive home. The police said “they didn’t need to impound the vehicle because they have the evidence they need to investigate.”

The child was reportedly sent to the hospital with a life-threatening head injury, and the mother suffered a broken arm. They were in a crosswalk at an intersection with four-way stop signs, where pedestrians always have the right-of-way, according to California law.

With an aging population in car-dependent areas, California cities have seen many cases of elderly drivers causing injuries and property damage, often reporting losing control of their vehicles while attempting to park. But like most drivers who hit pedestrians when they were sober and stayed on the scene, they’re rarely known to face a license suspension, let alone citations or charges.

In December 2013, a 74-year-old driver was attempting to park on Jackson Street in Chinatown when she suddenly accelerated and plowed into a car, a power pole, and two people, killing 84-year-old neighborhood activist Isabell Huie. In 2011, a driver in his 70s jumped the curb and smashed into Naan N’ Curry restaurant on Irving Street in the Inner Sunset.

In Menlo Park last January, a 90-year-old driver jumped a curb and pinned two 6-year old boys against a wall. The driver’s license had already been suspended pending a re-examination, and he responded to a lawsuit from the family by accusing the children of “reckless and negligent behavior.”

Last July, a 90-year-old driver attempting to park on University Avenue in Palo Alto drove into five people sitting outside a cafe. And in San Rafael in 2013, a 93-year-old driver was captured on video accelerating in reverse down a sidewalk toward two guide dog trainers and a guide dog, who jumped out of the way just in time.

The American Automobile Association’s website notes the risks of progressive cognitive impairment that seniors face, including slowed reaction time, which can affect their ability to operate a multi-ton motor vehicle.

“While safe driving is a function of ability not just age, older drivers and their families need to be mindful that as the body ages, medical conditions including visual and cognitive impairments become more prevalent, so it’s critical to understand how these changes can affect a person’s ability to drive safely,” AAA Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research Jake Nelson said in a press release last year. “Data tell us that Americans know they need to begin the discussion but often don’t know how.”

But Nelson has also defended the safety record of senior drivers as a whole. In a 2013 press release, he said that “the silver tsunami is often unfairly dubbed as risky and dangerous,” and that “drivers in their mid-to-late 80s have lower crash rates per mile driven than drivers in their early 20s and roughly half the crash rate of teenagers.”

The CA Department of Motor Vehicles requires drivers over the age of 70 to take a vision and written test when they renew their licenses, which is required every five years. But behind-the-wheel tests aren’t required unless a re-examination is ordered.

Re-examinations can be ordered if a driver is reported as an unsafe by a police officer, physician, a DMV employee, or others. They’ll also be triggered once a driver accrues enough license points to be considered a “negligent operator” — four points within a year, or six in two years. But one-point violations include at-fault collisions and charges such as vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence (gross negligence is two) — the same as any traffic citation.

SFPD hasn’t responded to a request on whether the driver in yesterday’s crash could face license suspension, charges, or be required to undergo a re-examination.

No plans for safety improvements are known at the intersection where yesterday’s crash occurred. The Stonestown Galleria, surrounded by an often-clogged parking lot on the southwestern corner of the city, installed a raised crosswalk in 2011 near the intersection of 20th and Winston Drive.

  • Gary Fisher

    Thank you Aaron for nailing the mindset of this mess. 5 generations that have drunk the cool aid.

  • Take this woman’s drivers license away and never let her behind the wheel again. I don’t care what anyone says that as folks grow older their reaction times diminish. Frankly there ‘oughta be a law’ that anyone over age 75 must submit to a rigorous motor skills test to determine if the individual is competent to drive a motor vehicle. I’m ready for the negative comments. That’s ok. Go for it.

  • OneSF

    Well, here’s one senior citizen who’ll definitely not taking advantage of a free MUNI pass. Only in America would you have a senior citizen hit somebody with their car and be able to leave like nothing happened.

  • hp2ena

    Or better yet, prohibit them from driving entirely.

  • I agree. I guess I am being too polite given how some folks on this site get themselves in a tizz over what they perceive as politically incorrect observations.

  • Greg Costikyan

    The real problem is that in so much of America, it’s basically impossible for people to age in their homes and still function. My mother drove into her late 80s, because, living in Orange County, there really wasn’t an option. She was also sensible, and aware of her infirmities, and made compromises (not driving at night, trying to avoid left turns across traffic). But our streets are not only not designed for pedestrians and cyclists; they’re also not designed to permit older people to remain independent.

  • keenplanner

    Child has life-threatening injuries. Driver was clearly at fault. ‘Nuff said.

  • murphstahoe

    These compromises are why seniors have surprisingly low crash rates. But their crash rate for conditions is surely higher than for younger drivers. How often do you see “mistook gas pedal for brake pedal” in 20 year olds? And those incidents pretty much never end well.

  • foo

    Before she drove away, she asked the police for directions to the closest farmer’s market, mumbling something about “unfinished business”.

  • murphstahoe

    I was right hooked a few years back on Portola. I recovered and stayed upright in large part because as the driver passed me I just felt something was wrong – probably sense the car drifting towards me (there was no turn signal).

    I gave the car a pretty good jolt but the driver just continued on. I decided to follow and discuss it. The woman driving was clearly in her 80’s at least – she had a bumper sticker indicating membership in a WW II vets organization (in 2010, the youngest WW II vet would be 80+ years old).

    I said “You hit me and drove off”. She gave me a puzzled look and in a raspy voice said “HOWWWW?” She didn’t look capable of much of anything let alone driving, as if she needed to be in assisted living.

  • Alicia

    I’m of the opinion that there should be no automatic renewal of driver’s licenses and everyone should have to redo the driver’s test every five years. I wouldn’t tie it to age.

  • coolbabybookworm

    I think we have a problem in the law, but maybe it’s procedure and application. If the child ends up dying then they can charge the driver for manslaughter but if the child lives, regardless of how bad the injuries are, then the driver is fit to drive another day? That doesn’t seem right.

  • Ken

    According to my dad, the old guys in his morning coffee and donut group worry about losing their driving privileges than anything else. It’s a huge loss of independence. If we have good transit and people are used to using it then they wouldn’t feel like they have to drive when they should not.

  • SFnative74

    I think that is overkill as there are older people that still have good awareness and reflexes. I like Alicia’s idea though, of EVERYONE getting tested periodically. Laws change, people’s ability to drive well change – it’s important and very reasonable that we make sure people can operate 3000-4000 lb vehicles safely.

  • murphstahoe

    The state would of course balk at the cost – ignoring the extra money we spend dealing with accidents.

  • gneiss

    Put the costs back on drivers by increasing the expense of license renewals. This is yet another example of a hidden subsidy given to motorists for something that is “socialized” out to everyone though higher insurance rates and more expensive emergency services which are covered by taxpayers.

  • Leon Foonman

    If she were anything younger than 60 or so, she would’ve been traveling fast enough to evaporate both of them. She then would’ve put down her iPhone and sped off, leaving the scene.

  • Leon Foonman

    Too bad she didn’t score a direct hit, eh?

  • Leon Foonman

    We think that all the trolls, with the name “lee” should have to submit to a troll-o-meter evaluation before commenting here.

  • MattGurwell

    Don’t give tragedy the opportunity to strike your family; there is help available.

    Keeping Us Safe is a national organization that provides practical, real-life solutions to older drivers and their families. Our programs are designed to help older drivers with diminished driving skills make a smooth transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat without deterioration to their dignity, personal pride or independence.

    Our programs provide families with the missing link between their desire to bring this issue to a peaceful resolution, and their ability to actually do so.

    “Beyond Driving with Dignity; The workbook for older drivers and their families” serves as the foundation for the “Beyond Driving with Dignity”
    program. It is a ‘working’ workbook, designed to remove the family’s opinion, emotion and speculation from the challenging process of deciding whether or not a loved-one should continue or if, in the interest of safety, they need to retire from driving.

    We also offer our Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals who have been specifically trained and certified in Keeping Us Safe’s “Enhanced
    Self-Assessment Program” for older drivers. With the 3-hour (in-person) self-assessment program, families benefit from a third-party, impartial intervention in resolving this very delicate and sensitive issue with their loved-one.

    Lastly, our Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals offer the following presentations to the public:

    1) A Safe Drive Through the Aging Process (meant for older drivers themselves), and

    2) Adults with Aging Parent Drivers

    Each of these 1-hour presentations are typically offered at no charge.

    Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals can be found
    throughout the U. S. and Canada.

    Keeping Us Safe’s “self-assessment program” for older drivers has become a respected resource for physicians, hospital systems, and court systems looking for help for older drivers and their concerned families.

    Our programs are designed to save lives while helping to ease the burden of the family as they find themselves faced with this very challenging issue.

    For more information on our workbook, our self-assessment program for
    older drivers, to schedule a presentation for your business or organization, or
    to learn more about becoming one of the Nation’s Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals, visit Keeping Us Safe at http://www.keepingussafe.org or call us at 877-907-8841.

  • Vicky Chang

    the elderly could use three-wheeled e-bikes. theyre slower and far easier to handle – one less car


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