Recent Palo Alto crash raises questions about elders driving

After a 90-year-old driver recently injured five people at a caf? while trying to park, some re questioning when is it time to stop driving.
How old is too old to drive a car? It's a question on the minds of many tonight after a 90-year-old injured five people in Palo Alto Thursday while trying to park his car. ABC7 News took a closer look at this very sensitive issue.

It turns out it doesn't have to come down to giving up the car keys completely. Seniors have some options, which they can learn about if they take a special safety class. And the class might even qualify them for an insurance discount.

The law specifies the minimum age to get a driver's license, but there's no upper limit. The DMV says people should be able to drive as long as they can do so safely. However, 80-year-old driver Helmut Schroeder said he would welcome tougher license tests for mature drivers.

Schroeder said, "It would be a good idea, yes, yes. It would be also more expensive for the DMV to test people, but it would be a very good idea, yes."

However, does it take a bad crash to determine it's time to stop driving? In Thursday's accident, the 90-year-old driver injured five people and smashed into a cafe after losing control while parking.

The CHP, AARP and other groups sponsor safety classes for seniors. About 2,800 people have participated in the CHP program alone.

In some cases, drivers may want to apply for restricted licenses.

CHP Officer Art Montiel said, "They can get a restricted license so they can only drive if they're comfortable driving during the day rather than at night, or if they don't like driving on the freeway, they can drive on city streets only."

Geriatric social worker Paula Wolfson would like to see giving up driving a badge of honor, not punishment. She said, "Acknowledge this in some sort of positive, joyous way that they are being civic-minded and concerned about their fellow citizens."

Retired aerospace engineer Fred Summer remembers when his family told him to stop driving. They simply told him it was time to give it up, Summer says he was offended at first and said, "You take offense to it immediately, and then you think about it, and they're right."
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