Except on this day Marcia Brandon was guilty of listening to the radio as she fidgeted with the automobile controls and multitasked down the highway. The preening on the road was a costly lesson as she drove distracted, lost in thought on the road.
Because on this day the 82-year old woman was cited by Oregon State Police (OSP) for driving 110 mph in a 55 mph zone on Highway 26 west of Gresham. That’s correct 110 mph! When the OSP trooper finally overtook the hulking Pontiac Bonneville and was able to pull over Marcia Brandon (did I already state she was 82 years old?) she stated that she wasn’t aware she was driving that fast. In fact, she had no idea that the car’s hazard lights were blinking on either as she whizzed past other traffic.
Ms Brandon was cited for Violation of the Basic Rule – 110 mph in a 55 mph speed zone.
Convictions for driving over 100 mph now carry a mandatory minimum 30 – 90 day suspension in addition to a $1,103 fine. Since 2006, with the stronger law and penalties, drivers traveling 100 mph or faster have decreased. In 2009, troopers cited 298 drivers for traveling 100 mph or faster on Oregon highways, an approximate 21% decrease from 2008 (376 drivers cited) and 45% since 2006 (537 drivers cited). In 2009 DMV noted 313 drivers received court ordered suspensions for driving over 100 mph, 366 court ordered suspensions in 2008, and 428 court ordered suspensions in 2007.
But, this isn’t my main point. After a quick scan of the OSP site, Ms Brandon is in good company! I’m alarmed at the number of age impaired driving accidents over the last 30 days and this is just a small sampling of the accidents:
- Roy Lester Shideler (age 82) – driving on a suspended WA. license traveled into the ditch on Hwy 395 and was ejected from the vehicle and died.
- Irma Crumrine (age 81) pulled in front of a vehicle on Hwy 97 and seven people were injured. All survived.
- Sandra Boehme (age 66) traveled across the center line striking a pickup which then created two other vehicles to crash. All survived.
- Delia Le Blue (age 78) collided with a van making a left hand turn on Hwy 26 resulting in serious injuries.
- Clinton Deshazer (age 71) for unknown reasons crossed the centerline and collided with a semi-truck which resulted in serious injuries.
It turns out the fastest growing segment of the driving population are seniors who make up 9% (about 19 million) of the nation’s drivers. This figure is expected to jump to more than 30 million drivers by 2020. Drivers aged 75 and older have a 37% higher crash rate than younger drivers, according to the Elder Law Journal, published by the College of Law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And with the exception of teenage drivers, seniors have the highest probability of death resulting from an auto-related accident of any age group.
Sure, age alone does not determine a person’s ability to operate an automobile, but evidence suggests that certain characteristics associated with aging impair driving performance.
I acknowledge that independence of senior drivers is very important and fundamental to maintaining our freedoms, but I’m not sure the state/DMV tests are doing enough for road safety when an 82 year old is licensed and feels empowered or unrestricted to travel 110 mph on her way to errands.
Why so many age related vehicle accidents when by law Oregon drivers aged 50 and up must undergo a vision test verifying they can safely scan and traverse the roads? The testing must occur upon license renewal and every eight years thereafter.
Given the aging population trends there needs to be more done by DMV in validating an aged driver’s abilities.
UPDATE: October 26, 2010 – Just yesterday, Martha Lockhart (age 82, from Olivehurst, CA.) stopped near Toledo on Hwy 229 at the intersection of Hwy 20. For some unknown reason she pulled out into the path of a semi-truck which was pulling empty pole trailers. The collision flipped the trailers which in turn collided with a Chevy truck registered to Oregon State and was being driven by Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) employee Tamara Elizabeth Wagner (age 52) who was pronounced deceased at the scene. Ms Lockhart and the truck driver received non-life threatening injuries.
Photo courtesy of: The Incredible Hulk from The Super-Hero Squad Show, © Marvel Entertainment