Sonoma crosswalk accident heightens focus on elderly drivers

  • Crosswalk victim Tyler Meloan on Tuesday, October 30, 2012.

    (Jeff Kan Lee/ The Press Democrat)

Steve Meloan understands how difficult it can be to convince an aging parent to give up driving and, after a 92-year-old man reportedly struck Meloan's son in a crosswalk last weekend, knows the potential risks when that conversation fails.

Meloan's mother, also 92, turned over her keys only after driving had become a source of unsustainable stress.

"She'd map out how to get from point A to point B without ever turning left because she couldn't negotiate the real-time demands of oncoming traffic," said Meloan, a freelance technology journalist who lives in Sonoma.

Meloan's 14-year-old-son, Tyler, and Sonoma Charter School classmate Toby Ragueneau, 13, were struck Saturday afternoon as the boys were walking in a crosswalk on Fifth Street West in front of Sassarini Elementary School.

Ragueneau suffered a skull fracture and was released Monday from a Napa hospital. Tyler Meloan was treated for a possible broken finger and abrasions.

Sonoma police cited Leo Arkelian for failing to yield to pedestrians and have asked the state Department of Motor Vehicles to review whether his driver's license should be suspended or revoked. The DMV has five days to take action so a decision is likely by Friday.

Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett said Tuesday that there was no evidence of a mechanical failure so the vehicle was not impounded. It was damaged, however, and towed to a local body shop at Arkelian's request.

Despite the citation, eyewitness accounts and the shattered windshield on his Toyota sedan, Arkelian has denied hitting anyone, saying he was attacked by a group of rowdy children after he stopped out of concern for their welfare.

Steve Meloan said he spoke briefly with Arkelian in the emergency room at Sonoma Valley Hospital, where Tyler Meloan was examined for his injuries. "He looked so forlorn and traumatized. It was very sad," Steve Meloan said.

He said his son also remains unnerved by the memory of seeing his friend getting struck by the car and knocked unconscious. Tyler told his parents he changed his mind and doesn't want to go out tonight for Halloween. It's also uncertain how his injuries will affect his piano playing and on the court as a member of his school basketball team.

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