Updated – Wednesday, women and children screamed as a 100-year-old driver backed his powder blue Cadillac over a sidewalk adjacent to an elementary school striking 14 people, including 11 children.
According to one witness, the Los Angeles centurion didn’t respond to their anguished screams and kept backing up; that’s when those still able began pounding on the Cadillac’s windows to get his attention.
How old is too old, when it comes to operating a vehicle that weighs nearly two tons on public roads? The question surfaces nearly every time a senior drives into a convenience store after mistaking the accelerator pedal for the brake pedal.
But, at 100 and still licensed to drive…it seems there is no age-limit for seniors to get behind the wheel, at least not in California.
According to an AP report, Alma Solache said she was buying her children an after-school snack Wednesday just before the accident outside a South Los Angeles school. “He was not paying attention,” said Solache, 24, adding that it was at least two or three seconds before the vehicle halted and people began pulling children out from beneath the car.
Four children were in critical condition when firefighters got to them, but are reportedly stabilized and in serious condition at a hospital.
City fire Capt. Jaime Moore says everyone is expected to survive. Backpacks, candy and children’s shoes littered the site of impact behind a local grocery store near Main Street Elementary.
Police said drugs and alcohol did not seem to be involved in the accident and the driver, Preston Carter, was being cooperative, according to a CBS report.
When interviewed by reporters after the crash that occurred about five miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles, Carter said he has a driver’s license and will be 101 years old Sept. 5. “My brakes failed. It was out of control,” he told KCAL-TV.
Asked about hitting the children, Preston said: “You know I’m sorry about that. I wouldn’t do that for nothing on earth. My sympathies for them.”
An 86-year-old man mistakenly stepped on the gas pedal thinking it was the brake pedal before panicking and plowing into an open-air market in Santa Monica in 2003. Ten people were killed and 63 injured in that incident.
In California, people over age 70 must renew their driver’s license in person. Renewal by Internet or mail is forbidden and older drivers are subject to a supplemental driving test if they fail a vision exam, or if a police officer, a physician, or a family member questions their ability to drive.
Officials said Carter has a valid drivers license and is not under arrest. Information on his last drivers test or whether he has had a test subsequent to being issued his original license was not available at press time.
***Word was misspelled in title; amended 8/30 1:36 p.m.***