Elderly drivers are not often viewed as drunk driving threats, but this common perception was recently proved flawed when an 83-year-old drunk driver in California struck and killed a man riding on a Segway.
According to Patch.com, Dick Chappell, a resident of Los Gatos, California, was booked into the Santa Clara County jail this past weekend after he drove his car into a Segway-riding man on a crosswalk.
Sources indicate that the incident took place early Sunday evening. Chappell was driving his 1991 Lexus SUV, and apparently ran a red light. When he crossed the intersection, Chappell struck 72-year-old Marschelle Syverson, a resident of San Jose.
Syverson did not die immediately from his injuries. He survived until he reached the San Jose Regional Medical Center, where he later passed away.
While police have not yet released information about the Chappell’s level of intoxication, it seems safe to guess that his blood alcohol content was above the legal limit.
Arresting officers determine that Chappell was probably inebriated when the interviewed him at the scene of the crime. Police also indicate that Chappell was in a state of shock after the fatal accident.
After his arrest, police charged Chappell with several counts, including driving under the influence of alcohol, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and a felony DUI.
While the incident may have been prevented if Chappell had been driving sober, it also raises interesting questions about the safety of Segway devices, which were once hailed as the future of transportation but have had a hard time gaining traction in the consumer market.
At first glance, it would seem that a person riding a Segway across a crosswalk would be more visible than a simple pedestrian. Thus, the Segway might be more easily seen by a speeding driver.
On the other hand, people operating Segway devices, particularly riders who are inexperienced, may not have a firm grasp on their maneuverability. So, when a Segway rider is in danger, he or she may not be able to respond quickly.
This, of course, is all speculation, as it is not clear whether Syverson was an experienced Segway operator. In addition, Syverson’s ability to maneuver the device in a quick fashion is not really relevant because he had the right-of-way while crossing a crosswalk.
Nevertheless, the incident does raise questions about a pedestrian’s safety while operating a Segway.
In addition, the incident shines a light on an under-appreciated aspect of DUI arrests. While DUI arrests disproportionately strike younger drivers, elderly drivers may still be capable of getting behind the wheel while they are drunk.
And, when octogenarian drive drunk, they may be further harming their already compromised reflexes. If you have a grandparent or an elderly friend who drives after drinking alcohol, remind them of the potentially fatal consequences of drunk driving.