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Crashes Revive 'Too Old' Debate

Rudy Ocegueda places letters on a marquee in tribute to Michael Jackson at a Holiday Inn hotel Tuesday, July 7, 2009, near the Staples Center where Michael Jackson's memorial is being held in Los Angeles.
AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato
A pair of unrelated car crashes involving drivers in their 80s has killed a couple in Minnesota and injured four pedestrians in California, one critically.

In Roseville, Minn., an 88-year-old woman crashed her car into three cars in a series of accidents, killing an elderly couple. The woman left a drug store Sunday and plowed into two cars, then ran over curbs, a sidewalk and bushes before stopping in traffic, police said.

When a pedestrian asked if she was OK, the driver stepped on the gas again. Her car crossed several lanes of traffic before heading onto the sidewalk, then traveled back into oncoming traffic and hit another car, killing 90-year-old Charles Zimmer and his wife Hertha, 89.

The Zimmers were being driven by their daughter to celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary.

Both drivers were treated for minor injuries. Police were unable to immediately interview the 88-year-old woman because she was sedated. Her name was not released.

In an accident Monday in Santa Cruz, Calif., an 85-year-old man lost control of a car equipped for a handicapped driver, injuring four pedestrians, one critically.

Police said Robert Schmidt, 85, of Stockton, was unaccustomed to the car's special configuration and pressed the accelerator instead of the brakes, jolting forward and hitting two people on the seaside city's crowded wharf. As he reversed, Schmidt's car then struck a 19-year-old man riding a bicycle and a 6-year-old boy, police said.

The first two people struck, including a critically injured 92-year-old woman, were taken by helicopter to a San Jose trauma center, police said. Schmidt was not arrested.

The accidents come about six weeks after 86-year-old Russell Weller's car plowed through an outdoor market in Santa Monica, Calif., killing 10 people.

Police have said Weller told them he didn't realize until too late that the street was closed to traffic. They also said Weller believes he might have hit the gas instead of the brake.