A 79-year-old South Florida woman received a non-criminal citation after backing out of a parking space into a crowd of pedestrians, killing three fellow senior citizens and injuring four others.
Authorities say the driver lost control of her sport utility vehicle while backing out of a handicapped parking space near the front of a church parking lot. She also struck a curb and a tree before the vehicle came partially to rest in a creek. She is not expected to face criminal charges, as no drugs, alcohol or maliciousness is believed to have played a role in the crash. It is likely, however, that her driver’s license will be permanently revoked. The woman reportedly confused the gas and brake pedals.
Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers recognize that this tragedy presents an opportunity to discuss two major traffic safety issues: Elderly driving and back-over accidents.
With regard to the latter, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently announced the finalization of a set of federal standards that will require all vehicles under 10,000 pounds have back-up cameras equipped standard by 2018. Many newer vehicles already have the devices, but they aren’t required.
The rule has been many years in the making, with Congress in 2008 calling for change after a number of high-profile incidents in which parents had backed over their own young children, killing them. The U.S. Department of Transportation had proposed the regulations in 2010, but the Obama Administration delayed the implementation several times over concerns about cost.
But as cases like this show, the human toll is far too high to wait any longer. Children and the elderly are the most common victims of back-over accidents. The NHTSA estimates that, on average, nearly 300 people die each year as the result of injuries sustained in back-over accidents. Another 18,000 are seriously hurt.
Children and the elderly are shorter in stature (therefore tougher to see) and tend to have slower reaction times (or may not realize they need to react).
While back-over accidents are a risk for any driver, this tragic situation reveals how important it is for older drivers to recognize their behind-the-wheel limitations. The AAA’s Senior Driving website provides a host of resources for aging drivers and relatives. Loved ones can have some difficulty determining when it might be time to encourage an older person to relinquish the keys for good, but it’s important that it remains part of an ongoing conversation. Some warning signs of danger that the agency identifies:
–Does the driver ever confuse the gas and brake pedals?
–Does the driver seemingly ignore or miss stop signs or other traffic signals?
–Do other drivers frequently pass or honk at the driver, even when traffic is moving seemingly slowly?
–Does the driver ever got lost or easily disoriented?
–Does the driver ever seem to straddle lanes or weave in and out of traffic?
These are indicators that it may be time to have a discussion about at the very least limiting driving activities.
In terms of preventing back-over accidents, all motorists are encouraged to:
–Always operate on the assumption that children or others could be present. Carefully check the street, driveway and roadway before pulling out slowly.
–If you have young children, always know where they are before backing out. Always look behind as you back out slowly with the windows rolled down.
–Use extreme care each time you back up. Drivers of trucks or SUVs need to be mindful of the fact that their blind spot is especially large.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Elderly driver backs over 7, killing 3, after church in Florida, Feb. 3, 2014, WFLA-TV
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Fort Lauderdale Hit-and-Run Bicycle Accident Victims Left with Insurance Fight, Feb. 14, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Blog