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Florida leads nation in deadly crashes involving drivers over 65

Author: Shelby Lindsay/WGFL (CBS4)
Traffic on I-75. Photo via WINK News.

(WGFL) The wrong pedal at the wrong time.

That’s what Gainesville police say caused a 92-year-old man to crash his car into a Jason’s Deli in December – killing a woman who was eating inside.

While police investigate that crash, just this week authorities say a 65-year-old woman drove her car into a Beef O’ Brady’s in Spring Hill.

Six people were seriously injured in that crash.

MORE: 6 injured in, including driver, when car crashes in Beef ‘O’ Brady’s 

Crashes involving senior citizens are common in Florida given the high concentration of retirees, “things don’t work like they used too as far as your eyes and your hearing and your flexibility.” said Lt. Patrick Riordan with the Florida Highway Patrol.

The Department of Transportation says Florida leads the nation in deadly crashes involving people 65 years and older and Alachua County is one of the top 10 urban priority counties in the state.

But, some retirees said they aren’t to blame and driving is crucial to their everyday life.

“It isn’t because of our age, it’s because of what the other drivers were doing that we end up in accidents as being elderly,” said 68-year-old Penny Erickson.

Erickson says she drives a truck and pulls a trailer without a problem, “there’s other people who are in their 20’s and 30’s and i won’t ride with them they are careless.”

Anna Rasmussen is a retired nurse who relies on her car to get around.

“The transportation system here in Gainesville is not good, it can take you two and a half hours to get from this side of town to Shands,” Rasmussen said.

Gail Holley a Research Manager for the Florida Department of Transportation, said the 65 and older community makes up 19 percent of the population and is only getting larger.

“Florida’s aging population is increasing, according to the census bureau that trend is going to continue,” Holley said.

In Florida every driver over the age of 80 must have their licenses renewed every six years.

But not everyone agrees, “I don’t think they should be made to you know go through one of those driving courses, I think it should be their choice,” said retiree Joseph Jordan.

If you do know a friend or family member who is no longer a safe driver, Florida Safe Mobility for Life offers tips on how to start the conversation:

– Do not bring it up at family gathering

– Do not threaten or bully

– Be calm at all times, even if they are not

For more tips and information on the law head over to their website or to confidentially report an unsafe driver call: 850-617-3814

MORE: Study ranks Florida as most dangerous state for seniors