Elderly woman runs cars off road | TheUnion.com

Elderly woman runs cars off road

An 81-year-old woman suffered only minor injuries after she ran several cars off the road with her car and crashed into a guardrail Wednesday afternoon on Highway 49.

Catherine Warner of Applegate was swerving “all over the road,” and nearly crashed head-on into two cars as she crossed over the double yellow lines in her Toyota Matrix, according to witnesses who followed her on the highway from Cramer Road to just north of Lime Kiln Road shortly after noon, said CHP Sgt. Jerry Morgan.

Witness Mark Sweet, 56, of Lake of the Pines, said at least 10 cars swerved off the road to avoid Warner, while two of the oncoming vehicles narrowly missed wrecking with the elderly woman.

“She came within a few inches of one of them,” Sweet said. “She’s darn lucky she’s alive.”

As Sweet, on his cell phone with a 911 dispatcher, followed behind Warner, four CHP officers rushed from Grass Valley down Highway 49 to get to her before she caused a head-on accident.

“I had no idea how they were going to stop her,” Sweet said.

Morgan said officers were planning to block oncoming traffic.

Applegate went over the yellow lines again, clipped the back of a semi truck in front of her and hit a guardrail on the westbound lane 30 seconds before officers arrived, said both Sweet and Morgan.

“Fortunately no one was coming in the opposite direction,” Morgan said. “She would have killed someone.”

Morgan said Warner was awake and talking to officer at the accident scene, and she appeared disoriented and confused.

“She thought she was on Interstate 80 going to Applegate,” Morgan said.

Sweet said Warner was bleeding from her arm at the accident sccene and seemed “dazed.”

She was transported by helicopter to Sutter Roseville Medical Center for treatment, but she was not admitted, Morgan said.

Warner reportedly told her insurance claims adjustor she had been suffering a diabetic coma, though the CHP has not yet verified the information with the medical personnel who treated Warner.

California Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Pingree said alcohol did not appear to be a factor in the accident.

Warner was wearing her seatbelt, and her airbag deployed when she hit the guardrail.

“She’ll be investigated to determine whether she’ll be fit to drive,” Pingree said.

According to the CHP, if an officer determines a need for an elderly driver to be re-evaluated, a report will be forwarded to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which will review the report and determine whether an evaluation is warranted.

The DMV would then determine if a person’s driving privileges would change.

According to the CHP’s Older Californian Traffic Safety Task Force, California’s senior population (65 and older), now at 4 million, will grow to 5.2 million in 2020 and to 9 million a decade after that. The number of licensed drivers within this age group will also increase, growing from today’s 2.75 million to 4 million in 2020 and 6 million in 2030.

“Because we face a huge increase in older drivers, casualties may increase dramatically, in part because age produces frailty, and a frail body is at much greater risk of severe injury or death,” said CHP Commissioner Mike Brown in a news release. “We have to work at crash avoidance to cut that toll.”

For more information about issues facing senior drivers, including health, safety and information about drivers’ tests and public transportation, go to http://www.dmv.ca.gov/about/senior/senior_top.htm.


To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, email robynm@theunion.com or call 477-4236.

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