Driver, 94, pleads guilty in death of neighbour

A 94-year-old Winnipeg man has pleaded guilty to killing his elderly neighbour by accidentally driving his car over him.

Edward Hudek admitted earlier this week to a Highway Traffic Act charge of backing a vehicle without due care. He was given a $1,000 fine and two-year driving prohibition.

Frederick Albert Tippen, 86, died in April 2010 after being struck by Hudek’s rented Suzuki SX4 in the parking lot of a St. Vital seniors residence.

Hudek, who has no prior criminal or driving record, told police he heard “knocking at the side of his car” as he reversed out of a stall. He then got out, saw nothing but went inside the Dakota House assisted living facility and told a staff member he might have “bumped into somebody.”

Police and paramedics arrived to find Tippen trapped underneath the vehicle, which had to be lifted to free him. The unconscious man was rushed to hospital but pronounced dead.

“This is a tragic, isolated incident in his life,” defence lawyer Martin Glazer told court.

Hudek surrendered his licence following the tragedy and has not driven since. He also wrote a letter of apology to Tippen’s family.

Glazer said his client was unfamiliar with the rental car and may not have seen Tippen in his blind spot while backing out.

The case has raised questions about how society handles a growing number of aging motorists. The ranks of seniors behind the wheel are expanding as baby boomers age, according to Manitoba Public Insurance.

In 1994, there were more than 80,000 Manitobans 65 and older with a valid driver’s licence, MPI said. In 2010, about 103,600 — 14 per cent — of the nearly 740,000 licensed drivers provincewide were 65 or older. It’s estimated 21 per cent of drivers in Manitoba will be over 65 by 2025.

Therefore driver testing for people who reach the age of 80 should be mandatory every 18 months.  If these people can’t pass the test they can start taking cabs if they live in the city.  If they live in rural areas they can move into an old folks complex.  Friends and support staff will be there to help with the shopping, errands and appointments.

And it is not just the other drivers on the road that can be traumatized by bad senior citizen drivers, passengers are often affected as well.

Shopping can be provided by friends or companies that provide such services.  Making it less hazardous in the parking lots.

Property damage, injuries and tying up the police could all be reduced if people in their later golden years had to take the mandatory drivers test.

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