One second, a video camera shows three elderly people seated on a bench in the lobby of a central Florida supermarket. Nearby, a 33-year-old mother rocks her infant son in a stroller while her daughter plays.

The next second, the whole group vanishes in a cloud of dust and debris. A hail of broken glass, fragments of sheetrock and a single tire track replace the group as a white Toyota Camry streaks across the scene.

Miraculously, none of the shoppers, hurled into floral displays and potato chip displays, were killed when a 76-year-old woman plowed through the entrance of the Publix in Palm Coast, Fla.

Ten people were injured, two seriously, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. It was unknown Wednesday whether any remained hospitalized. An elderly man was pinned beneath the car until fellow shoppers congregated and lifted it off him.

Lasaunda Hampton tells the Daytona News-Journal that her 3-month-old son emerged with only a bump on his head."It was like a little angel was watching over him," she told the newspaper.

On Tuesday, authorities charged Thelma Wagenhoffer with reckless driving.

In January, 2010, Toyota was forced to recall 8 million vehicles because of problems stemming from unintended-acceleration accidents and floor-mat issues. After insisting there was no other problems amid scrutiny from the car-buying public and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the company acknowledged that sticky gas pedals had also caused sudden accelerations. During that period, Toyota shut down sales of the Camry and seven other models for several weeks.

But authorities did not believe that was the cause of Wagenhoffer's accident. A FHP spokesperson said an examination of the vehicle revealed no mechanical problems, although they could not immediately say how that determination was reached.

"We don't know what happened," Cpl. Randall Naugher told The Associated Press.

A Toyota spokesman could not be reached at press-time to determine whether the company was investigating the accident. Wagenhoffer's Camry would not have been included in the recall of vehicles with faulty floor-mats known to get caught in the gas pedal of certain Toyotas.

Police believe that Wagenhoffer pressed her foot on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal as she approached a stop sign in the parking lot.

NHTSA officials say that sort of accident is relatively common – in a report released only last week, it said there are an average of 15 pedal misapplication accidents per month.

Women are behind in the wheel in two-thirds of those accidents, according to the findings, and NHTSA said they often occur in commercial parking lots.

"The most consistent finding across data sources was the striking over-representation of females in pedal-misapplication crashes, relative to their involvement in all types of crashes," the report said.

The report also noted that drivers ages 16 to 20 and those 76 or older were more likely to cause pedal-misapplication accidents, saying that "poor executive function" could be responsible.

"The relevant areas of the brain do not fully develop until young adulthood, and have been shown to decline with advanced age," the report said.

Wagenhoffer's age will surely be brought into question. There have been calls in some states to require seniors to get annual or bi-annual written, eye and or driving tests to renew their licenses. But it is a deeply unpopular idea with politicians given the size of the over-65 voting block.

To learn more about automotive safety recalls and how to avoid buying a used car with an open recall affecting its performance and safety, see this related story.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 455 Comments
      sylvabugg2
      • 2 Years Ago
      How many people have to die, what is it going to take to get these elderly, unsafe drivers off the road? I've said for year that people should be tested on a yearly basis after age 65. It is a proven fact that you begin to lose your eyesight, hearing and judgement as you age. Many of these people suffer from dementia and Alzheimers, yet they're out there driving around a 1 ton weapon! What's it going to take?
      LISA M
      • 2 Years Ago
      there is a test on AAA for elderly to test their skills at their age it was on our local news last night and a few elder people took it and did not pass! But are still driving??????? Access is around for a reason! I would hope they consider using it!
      teltech543
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wagenhoffer's age will surely be brought into question. There have been calls in some states to require seniors to get annual or bi-annual written, eye and or driving tests to renew their licenses. But it is a deeply unpopular idea with politicians given the size of the over-65 voting block. Why piss off all the over 65 voters at the expense of a few people killed by their driving. Acceptable losses.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @teltech543
        Yes, acceptable losses. How do you want the system to work? If you legally require people on fixed incomes to get tested every year, you'll have to fund that testing to some degree through Medicare, so you need data showing that the cost of annual testing and DMV processing for millions of drivers would make sense in comparison to how much damage elderly drivers cause. The money you want to spend has to come from somewhere, and it might have a greater impact on something else.
          • 2 Years Ago
          I think that people over 65 should not be charged extra for the driving test, only the normal license renewal fee. BUT, they should have to take the driving test every other year to avoid incidents just like this one. plus, if they have an accident and it turns out they are on prescription meds that clearly state DO NOT DRIVE while taking this medicine (or words to that effect), they should be charged just like a drunk driver - DUI.
      jpfl66
      • 2 Years Ago
      All buildings with large openings to a parking lot need to have the ten inch steel concrete filled posts at least 4 feet in the ground with 24 inches of concrete around them. The Publix is at fault for not having door protection and the architect who designed it should be brought in.
      • 2 Years Ago
      This is ridiculous, I don't know how many times while i've been driving on the road that i've had issues with people turning into your lane without a turn signal AND WHILE IM STILL IN THE WAY! Making me drive into the medium or slam my breaks so they won't hit me. 3 times in the past year this has happened to me, or them turning into a street without looking and seeing there are still people driving through! They really do need to re-evaluate their way of deeming people "safe drivers". A tiny obstacle course in the parking lot isn't enough to tell if someones a good driver. I'm in Florida and I honestly believe we have the WORST drivers here. Too busy talking on your cell phone and drinking a slushie to realize you're about to turn into someone and hit them. Ugh.
      Allen
      • 2 Years Ago
      Blame president OBAMA............. if he had not bailed the car companies out , this never would have happened be cause we would all have cars like the Flintstones. He get's thrown under the bus for EVERYTHING else. My prayers go out to everyone injured in this accident.
      • 2 Years Ago
      i feel bad but ..
      Paula
      • 2 Years Ago
      How about she mistook the brake for the gas, please. Let's not be so quick to blame the car, it's Florida after all I have many elderly relatives that I should not still be driving, but there isi no way they will listen.
        emeraldknightsky
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Paula
        That was what they said in the article - that she probably pressed the wrong pedal.
        Freddy
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Paula
        They don't listen most likely because they can't hear. Report them to the DMV and with any luck they will take their license away. Problem solved.
      • 2 Years Ago
      it may be difficult to have your license taken away by the Dept of Motor Vehicles, but it's alot more difficult for a Family member to have to take it away. Better the DMV does it.
        Hazel Joyce
        • 2 Years Ago
        A family member should have done it before she almost killed 10 people! I convinced my elderly mom to stop driving even though she never got a ticket or was in an accident.
      gary
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wonder if its that old lady that sued for spilling hot coffee on her Tw@t?
        • 2 Years Ago
        @gary
        HA! I love it!
      viperbl
      • 2 Years Ago
      GET OFF THE ROAD, OLD PEOPLE!
      quazachazed
      • 2 Years Ago
      There should be posts in front of the entrance so the car would have hit the posts and not ran into the store hitting the people. Many store have posts like this. If this store did the accident would have only affected the driver and there would be less injures.
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