By Annie Andrews firstname.lastname@example.org
Police have determined the car accident during the A'ror'N Days parade was due to driver error, not a medical emergency.
The accident happened just as the town pride parade got underway on Saturday. Nola Hodgson, 86, entered the intersection of 7th and M, accelerating into a group of parade spectators before crashing into a tree.
The accident sent six to the emergency room including the driver. Monday night three remained hospitalized in stable condition, including Nola.
Police have determined that Nola mistook the gas pedal for the break. It was a mistake and not a medical emergency, but one that can become common with the aging population.
In 2010 there were 39 million drivers over the age of 65, now double that to 69 million and that's how many senior citizens will still be behind the wheel in 2030.
For many seniors, Nola's accident is a reminder of a very difficult but they say necessary issue.
"We knew we were heading in the direction that I wasn't going to be able to drive anymore, macular degeneration was taking its toll," said Phil Jahn, a 90-year-old member of Grand Island's Generation Center.
Jahn's condition worsened and was forced to give up his license when his eyesight became too weak. "I took my license down here and they destroyed it," he said.
Jahn is like many seniors facing this situation, his condition was medical. But others don't have a medical issue and shouldn't be driving, he said, but are still behind the wheel.
"The biggest problem is these people, their children don't know how bad they drive," said 75-year-old Jolene Frederick. "If they knew, they'd take their license."
Just about everyone at the center has a friend whose family took their license, and everyone has several friends that shouldn't be behind the wheel. "It's really bad, I know people here that drive that shouldn't be driving," said Frederick.
Fatality rates for drivers over 85-years-old are 9 times higher than those between the ages of 25 and 69. Those accidents, often involve a pedestrian or other vehicle similarly to Nola's accident.
"Make them go in every year or two to check their eyesight and knowledge of the rules," suggested Frederick. She suggests this for everyone over 80, which is already the law in Florida. Police said they will be recalling Nola's license because of the accident, to get it back she'll have to take the test again. She could pass, but she could also fail like Jahn.
"The loss of freedom is hard to deal with," said Jahn. If it comes down to taking a license away, both Jahn and Frederick say there are things that help. For Jahn, he had a doctor telling him, an authority figure not a child. He said it also helped immensely that it was expected. With his condition, he was assessed every year and had about three years before his license was revoked.
"I knew it was coming," he said. Both said the Handi-Bus is essential to maintaining some independence. "It's just absolutely super," said Jahn. But, both agree if it comes down to taking a license away, it's not easy for anyone involved.
"When do you quit being the child and begin being the parent to the older people, that's what's hard," said Frederick.
Frederick said that often times when we go to visit an elderly relative we automatically jump in the car
and drive. She said it happens to her all the time.
She said if you think a driver could be aging out of their license, you must let them drive and you must be present. She suggested getting in the car with them to run errands at least once a year to gage their condition.