Two women went to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after being struck by a car outside of a Giles County, Virginia (VA), nursing home and rehabilitation center on the afternoon of February 24, 2017. The 81-year-old driver had been visiting with one of the injured pedestrians before she lost control of her vehicle as she attempted to pull out from a parking spot.
Police could not immediately determine the cause of the crash in the parking lot of the long-term health care facility located off Old Virginia Avenue in the Rich Creek community. They also did not file charges against the driver, who escaped injury despite also crashing into the entrance of the building.
Possible Pedal Confusion
Incidents like this often result from what crash researchers call "pedal application error." After analyzing nearly 900 wrecks in which a driver hit a pedestrian, vehicle or structure after confusing the gas pedal for the brake pedal, the National Transportation Safety Board in 2012 concluded that women older than 76 were the most likely to commit pedal application errors. A full two-thirds of the analyzed parking lot and driveway accidents involved female drivers, and more than half those women were senior citizens.
The agency proposed the following reasons for this:
- Loss of height, which makes reaching the correct pedal without special effort difficult
- Higher rates of medical conditions that make operating brake pedals difficult, such as neuropathy and arthritis
- Age-related decreases in reaction time and coordination coupled with a diminished ability to make decisions quickly
NTSB researchers characterized the last factor as "poor executive function." Another way to define that is a decrease in the ability to rapidly recognize and respond to an error.
Driving ability does not always decline with age, and each person experiences aging differently. To ensure that older drivers can still operate safely, Virginia requires residents above the age of 75 to renew their license in person. During their check-in at the DMV, elderly drivers must pass an eye test or present a report from a licensed eye care professional that attests their vision has met minimum standards within the previous six months. A DMV evaluator can also request that an elderly driver receive medical clearance.
Pedestrians in Parking Lots
The two pedestrians who sustained injuries in the Giles County nursing home parking lot likely have strong claims to make against the driver's car insurance policy. Even though the woman who hit them was not charged with violating any traffic laws, she did make some kind of mistake that resulted in harm to other people. Insurance exists precisely to compensate victims of accidents.
Working with a Virginia personal injury lawyer who has assisted other pedestrians will help the injured women collect and present evidence that supports their requests for compensation and damages. The purpose will not to be assign blame to the driver, but to defray unexpected medical and recovery costs.