Believe us, there are many more things we’d rather be talking about than tragedy in Orange County. Get to know us and in a few minutes you’ll see that we are very positive, upbeat people. But unfortunately, some things just need to be addressed. For the sake of our past, present, and future driver’s ed students, as well as all our fellow Orange County drivers, we are going to use a recent Costa Mesa accident as a teaching tool.
This past Wednesday at around 2:30 p.m., a 35-year-old man from Orange named Oscar Alaniz was heading south on Superior Avenue in Costa Mesa, near the Superior Ave./Industrial Way intersection. Mr. Alaniz was driving a Honda 50cc Ruckus scooter. A 98-year-old woman in a 2003 red Jaguar turned left into the intersection at Industrial Way, in front of Mr. Alaniz’s scooter. Mr. Alaniz struck the woman’s Jaguar. He was taken to the hospital, where he later died from his injuries.
This is such a sad scenario – two grown individuals, probably with many years of driving experience, in broad daylight, get into a fatal accident. That just goes to show you that it’s not always teenagers or inexperienced drivers, and it’s not always at night, and it doesn’t always involve alcohol.
However, this tragedy does raise some interesting questions:
- Should a 98-year-old still be driving?
- How old is too old to be driving in Orange County?
- Is it more dangerous to drive a scooter or motorcycle than a car?
California Requirements for Elderly Drivers
While there is no upper age limit for driving in California, it is one of 28 states in the U.S. that have special requirements for older drivers renewing their licenses. While a younger person in California with a good driving record may be granted two five-year license renewals, anyone over 70 must physically go to a DMV office for a written test and eye exam. If a DMV employee suspects a person over 70 may have a diminished ability to drive, the DMV employee can ask the elderly person to take a driving test.
But just being old doesn’t mean a person is dangerous behind the wheel. In fact, teenage drivers are still the riskiest drivers in the country – even more risky than elderly drivers. People in their mid- to late-80s also have fewer crashes per year than drivers in their 20s. Nevertheless, any accident that results in a person’s death should be analyzed to see how it can be prevented from happening again to someone else.
The Safety (or Lack Thereof?) of Scooters
It’s generally accepted that motorcycles are safer than scooters. We won’t get into the motorcycle vs car debate here today – we’ll save that for a future post. Here are a few of the comparisons:
- Scooters are lighter than motorcycles, making them more susceptible to being “thrown around” by a car that strikes them.
- Scooter tires are smaller than motorcycle tires, making them more likely to be affected by potholes, cracks, and debris in the road.
- Scooters have less power than motorcycles, making it more difficult to escape a dangerous situation quickly.
- The weight of a scooter is not as balanced as a motorcycle, due to the closeness of the tires and the driver’s weight placement on the bike.
A 50cc scooter (which Mr. Alaniz was reported to be driving) is one of the smallest, least powerful scooters on the market. Being the big proponents of safety we are, we aren’t exactly fans of these types of rides. We will assume that Mr. Alaniz saw the woman’s car, as it was a red car in broad daylight. However, he may not have had enough time or space to swerve or brake so as not to strike the woman’s car.
From the reports, it sounds as though the woman turned in front of Mr. Alaniz, which would make her responsible for the accident. When turning left on a green light, drivers must yield to oncoming traffic.
Tips for Scooter Drivers in Orange County
If you want to drive a scooter, PLEASE consider purchasing a larger one. You’ll have more power, be more visible (and audible) and potentially be a bit safer on the roads.
Learn your local scooter driving laws.
Take the time to learn your scooter and practice maneuvering, braking and accelerating, cornering and curves, etc. before hitting the roads. Then ease yourself into trickier situations, such as driving in rain, traffic, fog, or at night. Learn emergency procedures such as avoiding a crash or obstacle, driving in bad weather or poor road conditions, and skidding.
No scooter with less than 250cc engine is suitable for freeway driving.
ALWAYS wear a helmet and other gear (tough, visible clothing, eye protection, proper footwear, gloves, etc.) to protect yourself in the event of a crash or fall.
NEVER assume that a driver sees or hears you. On the contrary, we recommend that you be extra vigilant and defensive in your driving.
Whether you’re a teenager, an adult, a senior citizen, a scooter driver, or the winner of the Indy 500, you’re at risk for an accident. Please practice safety and defensive driving and help us make Orange County a better place – one safe driver at a time!