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Injured girl, woman remain hospitalized

A Spokane woman and her daughter remained hospitalized Wednesday after being hit by an unidentified driver in her 80s who told police that she never saw the family when she drove through a crosswalk Tuesday morning on the South Hill.

Hanna Franchino was still listed in satisfactory condition Wednesday at Deaconess Medical Center, while Maria Franchino, 7, was in serious condition at the hospital, said police spokesman Dick Cottam.

The family, along with Franchino’s sons, Dominick, 12, and Luigi, 5, was on its way to Comstock Park for swimming lessons. The boys were treated for minor injuries and released Tuesday, police say.

While police continued to withhold the name of the driver, William E. Sylvester said he hopes the collision doesn’t result in a public outcry seeking to impose restrictions on elderly drivers.

Sylvester, 77, is a six-year volunteer for the AARP of Spokane and has taught driver education classes to motorists ages 50 and older.

Those who pass the eight-hour course are presented with an AARP certificate that allows them to get a discount on insurance.

Since 1979, more than 9 million people nationwide have completed the course, according to AARP’s Web site.

Sylvester believes imposing age limits on motorists would punish more good drivers than it would hinder drivers whose driving abilities are diminishing with age.

“I don’t necessarily believe testing is the answer for those over a certain age,” Sylvester said.

“There are good and bad drivers in every age group.”

Sylvester believes that the majority of the nearly 1,000 drivers who have passed his course were good drivers.

“However, I have seen a lot of my students come to the conclusion that they don’t have the required skills and abilities, and they aren’t driving anymore,” Sylvester said.

Drivers over 75 had a higher rate of fatal accidents nationwide in 2001 and 2002 than any age group except teenagers, according to the Insurance Institute for High Safety.

The National Older Driver Research and Training Center reports that fatal crashes involving the elderly are expected to grow because by 2024, one in four U.S. drivers will be over age 65.

According to the May issue of Insurance Journal, 15 states require accelerated license renewal for older drivers.

Illinois, for example, requires drivers ages 81 to 86 to renew their licenses every two years instead of the usual four, and drivers over 87 must renew annually, according to Insurance Journal.

Currently, 20 percent of all Americans 65 and older are nondrivers, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“At some point we’re going to stop driving,” Sylvester said.

“One of the greatest fears you have is to lose your driver’s license.”


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