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COURSEY: A brave woman gives up her keys

I don't know Marylou Shira Hadditt, but I owe her a huge debt of gratitude.

So do you. So does anyone who drives, walks or pedals on Sonoma County roads.

Hadditt, who is 84 and lives in Sebastopol, decided to quit driving two years ago. She described that painful decision, and her struggle with its consequences, on Tuesday's op-ed page of The Press Democrat.

It should be required reading for every older person, for every parent, for every child, for everyone. After all — if we're lucky enough — we will all face this decision some day.

And the importance of that decision has been driven home over and over again recently on our streets and roads, never more forcefully than at the top of Thursday's Page 1. That story described the denouement of a February crash in which 74-year-old Johnella Thomas mistook her accelerator for her brake pedal and lost control of her Mercedes on Bohemian Highway. The car careened off the road and slammed into a gazebo where Nola Wolf and her husband sat with others waiting for a zip-line tour through the redwoods. Wolf, 61, of Petaluma, was killed.

Thomas pleaded no contest to vehicular manslaughter. While she accepted responsibility for the crash, she denied she hit the accelerator instead of the brake and insisted there must have been a mechanical malfunction. She was sentenced to three years of probation and was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service. She also had her license revoked — for three years.

I don't think I'm the only one who hopes Thomas will have a chance to read Hadditt's story before she tries to get her license back.

Hadditt chose to sell her car and let her license expire before anything bad happened, before her family or the authorities or tragic circumstances forced the decision upon her. By doing so, she remained in control of her own life, but that doesn't mean the decision came easily.

"At first it was very difficult," she wrote. "It's still not easy."

Her car, Hadditt wrote, gave her both freedom and privacy. She could go where she wanted and enjoy those travels in "delicious aloneness." Letting that go caused anxiety, depression and introspection.


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