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Elderly driver crashes too common?

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

WHAT WE THINK : Carmella Finocchio needs a cane to walk — but, at 82, she still drives. And on Saturday, she plowed her sedan right through the front entrance of a busy Wendy’s. So here we go again: In so congested an area as North Jersey, how old is TOO old to drive?

The great-grandmother told The Bergen Record she lost control of her 2000 Saturn while pulling into the parking lot: “I couldn’t stop. … I saw the front door in front of my face and got so scared.”

She calmed down quickly enough to have a burger and fries immediately afterward, and even joked that she’d gone there looking for a fish sandwich.

Once again, sheer luck prevented any serious injuries. But how many of these incidents will occur before someone is badly hurt — or even killed?

The drivers are as much at risk as anyone they might mow down.

So who is the state legislator who will float a measure that will require re-testing of elderly drivers after a certain age?

A month ago, a 79-year-old man hit the gas instead of the brake and plowed his car into an entrance of the Ridgewood Whole Foods. No one was hurt.

However, 86-year-old Elsa Jenisch of Oakland — another of North Jersey’s pricier communities — was killed when her parked 1999 Dodge Caravan began rolling backward in her driveway and she tried to reach in and stop it instead of getting out of the way.

It’s an emotional issue, this idea of individual freedom versus the risk to society. But even as we live longer and remain active, the facts don’t lie.

Age affects critical measures, including speed and distance — and, sometimes, judgment.

More importantly, reaction time lengthens.

If you’re concerned about an elderly loved one — after hearing of another crash in North Jersey involving a senior citizen who lost control of a car — see: TIPSHEET: How to tell whether mom or dad can still drive

Add in any medications someone may be taking and you’ve increased the negative odds even more.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

*The death rate per mile traveled for drivers over 85 is four times that of the 30-59 age group.

*They are also more likely to die in accidents. Their bodies are older, frailer.

*The only group more dangerous than senior citizens — statistically speaking — is teenagers.

That these incidents appear to be happening more in North Jersey’s more affluent towns raises a host of its own questions. Given the layouts, the only way to get many places are by car. And if an elderly resident has been doing it all of his or her life, and doesn’t have someone to help, their choices would seem limited.

AAA has a quiz for drivers over 55. Go to , or call 407.444.7913 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 407.444.7913 end_of_the_skype_highlighting . Also check out: .
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