Authorities will not criminally charge a 92-year-old man believed at-fault for a Florida crash that resulted in the deaths of three utility workers and the injury of another motorist.
Although investigators with the Florida Highway Patrol have not indicated any age-related condition contributed to the crash, it has nonetheless sparked a debate about the point at which older drivers should hang up their keys for good.
According to news reports, the three utility workers, from Georgia, were working alongside the highway installing a utility pole when the older driver attempted to make a right turn onto that road from a nearby cross street. As he did so, he reportedly entered the center lane, as opposed to turning directly into the right lane. In so doing, he struck the 20-year-old driver, and the impact sent the second vehicle careening into that ditch.
All three workers, ages 34, 35 and 40, were pronounced dead at the scene. Three other workers at the site survived.
It could be months before the investigation is completed, but troopers have said he could be cited for violating the other driver’s right-of-way, as well as for failure to move over while driving through a work zone.
The investigating authority has said there is no indication the driver’s license will be revoked, and it should be noted he is one of among 100,000 registered drivers in Florida over the age of 90. Those individuals account for 3.8 percent of all traffic accidents in the state.
Generally speaking, older drivers have a much better record of driving safety than their younger counterparts. They tend to avoid texting or talking on the phone while driving. They don’t usually speed. They drive less frequently at night.
However, they are more likely in the event of a crash to suffer injury.
Beginning in 2004, drivers over the age of 80 have had to pass a vision test each time they wish to renew their driver’s licenses. And it’s undisputed that certain conditions of aging – diminished vision, reduced hearing and slowed reaction times – can contribute to the likelihood of a crash.
Every year, between 7,000 and 10,000 driver’s licenses in Florida are revoked for medical reasons, most frequently after loved ones report safety concerns regarding an elderly relative to state authorities. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles processes such reports, and can require license holders undergo a medical examination to ensure they are fit to drive. If the driver does not submit to that exam or fails it, their license will be revoked.
Ideally, however, it will be older drivers themselves who take responsibility to ensure their safety behind the wheel. This involves measures like having vision and hearing examined annually, choosing the right vehicle for your needs, limiting drive time if necessary (to avoid night and/or peak traffic times) and being mindful of whether medications may impair driving abilities.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
FHP: Elderly man in crash that killed 3 has clean driving record, April 3, 2014, By Desiree Stennett, Orlando Sentinel
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