A 79-year-old Florida woman, Doreen Landstra, killed three other women in a car accident in which she accidentally reversed her vehicle into a crowd. The incident occurred on Feb 2 in a church parking lot when Landstra backed up quickly, thinking she had the car in drive.
The Florida case has engendered much controversy, bringing up questions of age limits for driving as well as how to properly charge Landstra in the case. Besides the three people Landstra killed, she also injured several others in the crowd full of elderly people. The incident was ruled an accident and no criminal charges were filed against Landstra. The only thing the 79-year-old received was a fine and a suspension of her driver’s license for one year. To most, this is not an acceptable reprimand for taking the lives of three people, even if it was an accident.
The widower of one of the tragically deceased mentions that he holds no anger towards Landstra as he knew it was an accident, but he did say he did not agree with the judge’s ruling of only suspending her license for one year. He believes the Florida woman should no longer be allowed to operate a vehicle. Is he right? Is having a suspended license for one year enough to cover the accidental death of three people? Should Landstra be allowed to drive at all?
This would not be the first time the Florida woman, who killed three people in a car accident, had an issue with improperly handling her vehicle. Back in 2011, Landstra was reported to have driven her car straight into a McDonald’s restaurant. Thankfully, nobody was injured that time. After that offense, she was only required to re-take her driving exam in order to be able to continue driving.
While it may sound unfair to use Landstra as an example for all elderly drivers, it does bring up the fact that had her license been permanently revoked after her first incident, three lives may have been spared. How do we determine at what age a person should stop driving? Would such a thing even be legal? Younger people now may want a law preventing those of a certain age from driving, but what about when they themselves reach that age? We live in a society where we only think minutes ahead rather than years as we should be doing. Driving has always represented one thing – freedom. The ability to get up and go, to decide where you want to be and which way to get there is of high value to an elderly person who has already lost certain freedoms due to health issues and may already have to have someone else care for them. The freedom to be able to drive may be the last freedom they have.
Growing old is really just growing young in some ways, as we end up losing the ability to care for ourselves and require someone else to care for us. The same freedom a teenager feels when they first get to drive at 16 may be the same feeling an elderly person has when all he or she can now do for themselves is to drive. Is it right to set an age limit on all people of a certain age just because of the Landstra’s of the world?
A 79-year-old woman killing three people is something that should wake us up as far as what needs to be done with current driving laws. What is certain is that proper precautions are needed when people of any age start to show signs of being a danger on the road, a way of truly testing someone’s ability to drive properly and safely to ensure tragedies like the one in Florida do not repeat themselves.
Opinion by: Miguel A. Tamayo