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Elderly Driver 'Blacked Out' Before Crashing Into Deputy

Elderly Driver 'Blacked Out' Before Crashing Into Deputy

Sgt. Wesley Whitmore's car was hit and thrown into him after a driver, 79, blacked out, Sheriff Grady Judd says. [POLK COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE]

Associated Press

December 14, 2010

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — An elderly driver says he blacked out shortly before his vehicle struck and killed a sheriff’s sergeant on Sunday.

Authorities say the sports utility vehicle driven by 79-year-old Leo John Saunders plowed through a 7-11 parking lot where Polk County Sheriff’s Sgt. Wesley Whitmore was making a traffic stop. The SUV hit the patrol car, which then spun around and hit 60-year-old Whitmore.

A passenger in the car Whitmore had just pulled over rushed to the deputy’s side and called for help.

Officials say Saunders is cooperating with investigators. No charges have been filed.

  • Sfa_iv_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Yes very sad all around. RIP.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago

    Tragic..RIP Sgt.Whitmore.

  • In_remembrance_of_oakland_pd_max50_max50_max50_max50_max50


    over 3 years ago


    A medical issue can beset anyone at anytime regardless of age. Retesting of elderly drivers more often is a sound idea and should be done in every state. This is nothing more than an unfortunate accident with a tragic outcome which took from us a fine officer.

  • Anonymous-killer-whale-232189_1__max50


    over 3 years ago


    Bump Robocop33; having a DL is a privilege; not a right. For the safety of the general public, older drivers should be tested more frequently to see if they are physically and mentally able to safely operate a motor vehicle.

  • M_a6d52838fcaf76871a3f162b66e0b424_max600_max50


    over 3 years ago


    THIS IS CRAZY...We should have MANDATORY testing for people that age. It is obvious he should NOT have been behind the wheel. I hope he AND his family take responsibilty and do the right thing. How tragic.

  • Michigan_20sheriff7_max50


    over 3 years ago


    You gotta know when it's time to give up the license...RIP

  • 321910_276082379080571_275962482425894_1020326_77530166_o_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Rest in peace brother.

  • 2011_range_day_2-19-10_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Two terrible tragedies in Central Fl in a week's time. God bless and be safe out there all.
    RIP brothers.

  • Img_0103_max50


    over 3 years ago



  • Pug_max600_max50


    over 3 years ago



  • shadow_officer

    over 3 years ago



  • 1979_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Tell you what, At 79 yrs old he should have been tested every year, period. I damn near lost my life myself to an elderly driver and because of him I have been disabled and in consistent pain for over 25 yrs now. I also had my career in a job I dearly loved cut short because he was unable to operate aMV safely and pulled out directly in front of a police unit operating lights and siren which he did not notice and truth be told he didn't much care as he had that "I'm a senior an can do what I want" attitude. I guess I am more angry than most because this incident killed a LEO and an elderly driver nearly killed me and I still see them on the roads daily.
    I see this on a daily basis down here in Fl. and at his age either he or someone should have known better than to allow him to drive without having a physical and retest for his DL.
    We are not taking away anyone's "rights" by requiring we check older drivers anymore than we are taking away the rights of anyone that is not competent to drive. Will they continue to drive anyway? Maybe some will but most will not and that alone will save many lives.
    I am sure Maine State Police have some great guys and some that are very good in traffic but come on, how many Interstates do they patrol when compared to Calif or NY and other States?While the size of the State isn't always the most important determining factor, (South Dakota had maybe the best traffic guys), it certainly helps.
    Bottom line, we need to make the streets safer and one of the immediate ways would be to re-test older drivers more often rather than just send them a renewal by mail every 6 yrs or so.

  • Me_radio_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Very sad...R.I.P brother you wont be forgotten

  • Policememorial---a_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Robo I was a plain old street cop doing traffic and DUI enforcement for many years. I started out as a Maine State Police cadet back in the early 90s assigned to one of their best traffic troops so I know what goes on on the road. I'm still doing traffic enforcement in my current job around a bunch of kids who seem to think that texting their friends while holding a Starbucks cup in their teeth and steering with their elbows is OK. I've worked my share of fatalities and even lost a good friend from Snohomish County a few years back who was trying to help get a stolen car suspect into custody. Yes at times I do make assumptions about people, but I try and make them lean towards the positive side of life instead of developing a "us vs them" attitude and becoming another burnt out cynical cop. I have to believe in the basic goodness of people until they give me proof that they are badguys so that I don't stop trying to make the world a better place for the people I care about.

    Are all people over 65 poor drivers? No, they aren't but there are some people who don't belong behind a wheel, for whatever reason regardless of age. Would having mandatory retesting of licenses after age 65 cure this problem? Not to the levels we all would hope for if the number of suspended and revoked licenses I have come across doing traffic enforcement is any indication of people's willingness to disobey the law. How far do we push regulating people's lives before they start calling us oppressive thugs (well more than they do already)? Do we get to the point of the fascist police in "1984" or do we at least attempt to preserve the freedoms this country stands for?

    We don't live in a perfect society or a perfect world. I understand this and I am not making excuses for Saunders. All I was trying to do is get folks to stop and think for a moment before demonizing a man none of us know for having a tragic accident I am positive he wishes never happened. if it turns out that Saunders did anything at all to deliberately cause this accident and to take Sgt. Whitmore's life I will happily apologize to everyone here for assuming that Saunders was a decent man who ended up in a horrific circumstance.

  • Img_20111016_163737_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Although I am all up for elderly freedom to drive, it gives people in general a feeling of freedom but some people need to be re-evaluated more ofter than others I feel. "Blacking out" is a serious condition that could leave more dead in a different situation.

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