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Casey Sherman Headshot

Forever Four -- A Tiny Life Taken By An Elderly Driver

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She will never feel the pride of losing her first tooth. She'll never feel the joy of learning to ride a bike or the thrill of her first school dance. Diya Patel will forever be just 4 years-old. She'll be wearing pink and singing her favorite songs in front of the television set in the mind's eye of her parents. Her life ended as she pushed her scooter along a crosswalk just a few steps ahead of her grandfather and her brother and sister near their suburban Boston home last weekend. Little Diya was struck by a Toyota Camry and was bounced like a ball about 50 feet across the road.

When her grandfather rushed toward her he checked her body for blood and bruises. There were none. Diya appeared as if she were just napping in her grandfather's arms. But there was massive trauma happening behind the little girl's sleeping eyes, where her brain had begun to swell from the intense pressure of the impact. Diya was rushed to the hospital where she died the next day.

The driver who hit her is 89 years-old and has had a history of speeding tickets and fender benders in her rearview mirror. Retired secretary Ilse Horn is the latest elderly driver turned unwitting killer. The rate of drivers involved in fatalities climbs after they reach the age of 65 according to another one of those "no brainer" studies. But the Carnegie Mellon University research does reveal one truly frightening truth -- that drivers over the age of 85 are four times more likely to kill someone on the road than an inexperienced teenager fresh out of Driver's Ed. class. This balances out to three deadly crashes per day here in the U.S.

Ilse Horn had nothing to say when reporters pounded on the door of her home at the Orchard Cove Continuing Care Retirement Community. Her silence spoke volumes to the family of Diya Patel. "Cancel their licenses!" screamed Diya's distraught grandfather about Horn and other drivers her age. The elderly woman's license has now been revoked because authorities have deemed her an "immediate threat" to public safety. Horn also faces a charge of motor vehicle homicide. As she consults with her lawyer, Diya's family is making her funeral arrangements and thinking about what was and what will never be. In death this little girl teaches a lifelong lesson to the rest of us. We are sons and daughters and moms and dads. We should hug our children a little tighter tonight and savor every moment just as we should keep a watchful eye on our parents and recognize even when they do not the time when they should give up their keys for good.

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