A 100-year-old man backed his car into a sidewalk in Los Angeles, hitting 11 people, nine of whom were children. The old man continued to plow his car into the crowd until screaming witnesses frantically pounded on his windows, prompting him to stop.
Several children were found underneath the large blue Cadillac after it came to a stop, four of them were in critical condition when emergency personnel responded to the incident. Police reported later that day that the victims had many bumps, bruises and scrapes, but were all recovering and in stable condition.
Children’s backpacks, shoes, candy and coins were scattered across the sidewalk after the incident.
The driver, 100-year old Preston Carter, will turn 101 on Sept. 5. His license is set to expire soon. Police say no drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident, and it looks as if it were an accident.
“He was not paying attention,” Alma Solache told the Associated Press. She had been buying her children an afterschool snack from the grocery store whose parking lot Carter was backing out of when the accident occurred.
“My brakes failed. It was out of control,” the old man told KCAL-TV.
Witnesses say they saw Carter pull out of the grocery store parking lot across from Main Street Elementary School, honk, and accelerate as he backed into the sidewalk rather than the street.
“I think it was a miscalculation on his part. The gentleman is elderly. Obviously he is going to have some impairment on his decision-making,” said police Capt. George Rodriguez.
Ella Fleming, the elderly man’s daughter, said she had repeatedly advised him not to drive anywhere outside of the neighborhood – just to the store or the doctor’s office.
Carter, who has a clean driving record, said he is giving up the keys to his car as a result of the accident. He apologized for plowing his car into the elementary school children and said that’s not something he would ever have wished to do.
“You know I’m sorry about that. I wouldn’t do that for nothing on earth. My sympathies for them,” he said.
While no one was killed in the accident, driving statistics show that elderly drivers are more likely to cause accidents than those in any other age group. The rate of deaths involving drivers 75 to 84 is the same as teenage drivers – three per million miles driven. Drivers older than 85 are four times more likely to cause fatalities than teenagers, according to a report by the Carnegie Mellon University and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The foundation also found that 69 percent of Americans 55 or older use more than one medication that can affect their driving, but are often unwilling to believe their ability to sit behind the wheel has been hampered.
“People have been driving their whole life and have trouble believing they’re incapable of continuing. They feel like their independence has been taken away,” executive director of Agingcare.com, Richard Nix, told ABC News.
In 2003, an 86-year-old man accidentally accelerated his car instead of braking and drove into a crowd in Santa Monica, injuring 63 and killing 10.
California’s Department of Motor Vehicles requires those over the age of 70 to renew their licenses in person. Drivers may be required to take a supplemental driving test if they fail the vision exam or if their ability to drive safely is questioned by police.
After plowing into 11 people – a situation that could have ended in fatalities – Carter is voluntarily giving up his driving privileges.