Older Drivers and the Threat of “Pedal Misapplication”

The San Diego Union Tribune is out with a story today about the risks elderly drivers pose behind the wheel, and the problem of “pedal misapplication.” What is pedal misapplication? An innocuous way of describing what happens when a driver accidentally hits the gas when they think they are applying the brakes.

In the article there are several accounts of San Diego accidents caused by elderly drivers, several of them fatal (and a few covered in this blog). Although pedal misapplication can happen with a driver of any age, the evidence suggests that it is mostly elderly drivers that are the cause.

“I get these cases maybe one week, and three the next week,” said San Diego police Detective Dan Wall. “They’re usually hitting several cars or several people, dealing with very rapid acceleration, flying through the back side of a garage, driving through the front of a post office, a bank, a convenience store, a restaurant, a fast-food store.”

At the Sharp Memorial Hospital Rehabilitation Center’s Driving Performance Lab elderly drivers are tested for the driving acuity, and frequently have problems. Dr. Peter Rosen, the director of the center told the Union Tribune that it’s common for the elderly to confuse the pedals.

“As we get older, our neurological processes slow down. Our vision and reaction time slow down,” he said. “The conduction rate at which neurons fire slows, so that our brain function slows. Brain function determines driver fitness — that is 99 percent of it.”

What to do about the problem. There is an effort to change law, and require elderly drivers to obtain annual certifications to continue driving.


Click here to read the entire Union Tribune story.

The accident and injury lawyers at Walton Law Firm represent individuals who have been injured in all types of accidents, including dog attacks / bites, auto accidents, worksite injuries, pedestrian injuries, construction accidents, property injuries, and malpractice matters. Call (760) 571-5500 for a free consultation.

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