Services pending for Livermore lab exec killed when car crashes into gym

80-year-old driver may have stepped on gas pedal instead of brake

Funeral services are being arranged for Katheryn "Kathy" Baker, chief financial officer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who was killed Tuesday when a car crashed into ValleyCare's LifeStylesRx Livermore gym. She was 49 years old.

An 80-year-old Livermore woman was attempting to park her car when she apparently confused the gas and brake pedals and sent her car crashing forward into the gym, according to Livermore police.

The vehicle traveled nearly 70 feet into the building and hit an exercise classroom, hitting Baker and five others.

All six were transported to a hospital, where Baker died from her injuries. The others suffered moderate but not life threatening injuries, police said.

Baker "was a very special person and cherished by the people she worked with," said Lynda Seaver, a Livermore Lab spokeswoman. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family."

Investigators do not believe that alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash, according to police. No arrests or charges have been made at this time.

— Bay City News Service

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23 people like this
Posted by Jerry
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 22, 2015 at 12:43 pm

That is terrible and feel for all involved but I have no idea why it is important what type of vehicle it is. A better question would be to investigate the mental and fitness level of people we give licenses to. I am sure she feels terrible.

10 people like this
Posted by Janice
a resident of Birdland
on Sep 22, 2015 at 9:28 pm

How terrible and sad. Why is an 80 year old still driving?

9 people like this
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2015 at 9:49 pm

How hard did she step on her "brake"? She drove over the sidewalk, through the building/glass and still travelled 70 feet into the gym?

69 people like this
Posted by Senior
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:47 am

Janice, your simpleton stereotyping deems you unfit to serve on any jury!! You lack the ability to be objective. With your lack of logic, I suppose you would then likely say ALL teenagers are GOOD drivers, because of their youth!! You would be wrong on both counts! You owe competent seniors an apology. My Mother was on zero prescriptions at 92 and still driving, shopping, and cooking. I'm a senior with very sharp reflexes, and out-zumba most of the 40 somethings in my daily classes. Doctors do not want the responsibility, but they should advise families those in question to give it up.! That would give the family members permission to take away the keys.
I knew a 50 something who had a heart attack, causing a serious wreck. Actually I think teen accident rate is considerable higher than seniors, who actually 'learned' how' to drive which many foreigners on our roads have never learned how to drive, so intuitively drive terribly unsafe. And learn how to merge!!!I would like them to be required to take classes and tested on ALL signs, not just a stop sign!
An arbitrary cut-off would be very discriminatory. But doctors should tell the senior and the family, it's time to quit, It might be at 101 or 91, all depends on THE senior, and how they have kept themselves mentally capable. It's a personal decision and responsibility to keep oneself youthful and sharp, or be moved into incompetent status.

26 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 8:41 am


If we are to allow drivers over 80 years of age then we need to step up frequent testing and evaluation for them. Statistically, very old drivers are the most dangerous. Driving is not a right, it is a privilege, and it is a privilege that needs to be removed from many of them.

15 people like this
Posted by Patriot
a resident of Birdland
on Sep 23, 2015 at 8:42 am

Well put Senior! Couldn't agree more.

17 people like this
Posted by MsMo
a resident of Dublin
on Sep 23, 2015 at 8:54 am

I understand Senior's comments but do not agree with them totally. My mother is 88 and we had to take her keys and car away because she is in the early stages of dementia. She would forget where she was and her peripheral vision was not the greatest. She put up a good fight but in the end she agreed. Driving gives one independence and it is difficult to give up and rely on others. Seniors and teens are involved in the most accidents for various reasons. I feel that seniors over the age of 70 should be retested. I agree there are many seniors who are fine and can drive but there are those who are not. Mistakes can be made at any age but as we age our reflexes do slow down. I am a senior and do not drive at night because my night vision is not the greatest.

15 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 23, 2015 at 9:16 am

Michael Austin is a registered user.

Licensed drives and numbers of accidents by age:

Age - 19 years and younger 10,326 accidents.
Age - 20-24 years 17,465 accidents.
Age - 25-34 years 36,694 accidents.
Age - 35-44 years 38,424 accidents.
Age - 45-54 years 41,821 accidents.
Age - 55-64 years 33,271 accidents.
Age - 65-74 years 19,135 accidents.
Age - 75 years old and older 13,764 accidents.

Source: National Safety Council for year 2009.

4 people like this
Posted by Senior
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 9:22 am

MsMo equally outrageous to not complete sentence with 'some seniors', and 'sometimes'. Some in 50s allow themselves to go dim and dull, which also alters reflexes. Some men in their 50s are flabby, eat junk, sit, and their minds go flabby too. Yet, some men in their 70s & 80s still compete in races, chess tournaments, etc. You simply cannot generalize, and punish some for the acts of others. That's 'group think', which is wrong on most topics. Remember, the largest group (and growing) is seniors. Sheer numbers experienced senior drivers (from this country) driving for 60 years are much safer drivers, then 'newbies' who don't 'get' it.
SO, duh, seniors numbers will be greater on most things. Inevitably, top heavy, which is why Social Security is not sustainable as current program exists.BOOMER effect! There will more seniors than workers to support the program, (also why under the table dodgers should be reported, but their parents are on the program). Ages, drivers, some low-income pretenders, etc, all need to look at whole picture. Each person and age are different.

14 people like this
Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Sep 23, 2015 at 9:26 am

@Michael Austin

You really need to provide a table of number of accidents per age group which is given as a "per person" statistic rather than just the total numbers per age group. A "per person" accident rate table would be a better indication of the risk level associated with drivers of different ages.

In looking at the table you provided someone might naively assume that drivers in the 45-54 age group are the most dangerous because their total accident numbers are the highest of any age group. Of course, the real reason that the number of accidents in this age group is so high is that there are many more drivers in the 45-54 age group than in many of the other age groups listed.

6 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 9:59 am

@Michael Austin,

Damon has it exactly right. You have to look at rates per mile driven. Also over 80 years of age the fatality rate goes way up.

2 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 10:02 am

Senior is right about social security too. The demographics don't work unless we fix it.

11 people like this
Posted by Duhrty Olhdman
a resident of Hart Middle School
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:14 pm


Your double standard is hilarious. That is unless you're as comfortable with the statement that "many seniors drive terribly unsafe" as you are with "many foreigners drive terribly unsafe".

7 people like this
Posted by Not there yet
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:28 pm

@ Wondering

"How hard did she step on her "brake"? She drove over the sidewalk, through the building/glass and still travelled 70 feet into the gym? "

A terrible tragedy for all involved/ and not condoning anyone but part of "pedal confusion" is temporary
feet dyslexia. The driver was pulling into a parking slot
and thought she was braking but her car lurched forward.
Thinking she needs to brake more she errantly applies more pressure to the wrong pedal. This probably happened really fast as driver accelerated approx 70 feet worth and didn't react mentally fast enough.
My condolences to the Baker family.

2 people like this
Posted by Senior
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Dubrty, I made no such statements. So, apparently Dubrty, your 'confused' time has already arrived. Your words are twisted. I pity you, and those who can't read.
You're just upset 42 readers 'liked' my comments, because they were so 'right on'.

8 people like this
Posted by LOL
a resident of Canyon Meadows
on Sep 23, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Our senior citizens should consider calling Uber and not put the public in danger. This type of accidents happen a bit too often.

10 people like this
Posted by Concerned driver
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Driving is a privilege, and it should not be maintained on the basis of self-assessment. I could not care less whether you can out-zumba young kids at any age, you are fit to drive if and when you can pass a test. If you are over a certain age, or have certain mental conditions, you should get tested and get tested frequently, or give up the keys voluntarily. Unfortunately, most seniors do it when they get into an accident or have a few close calls. I am sure the lady who caused this accident considered herself a good driver and was pretty sure in her abilities. They all do. And now a life has been cut short, a husband lost his wife, and a big organization is without an important executive. I hope that t least the manslaughter charges will be filed in this case.

11 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 23, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), And the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI).

Today's older drivers are not only less likely to be involved in crashes than prior generations, they are less likely to be killed or seriously injured if they do crash, a new study shows. that's likely because vehicles are safer and seniors are generally healthier. It's a marked shift that began to take hold in the mid-1990s and indicates that the growing ranks of aging drivers aren't making U.S. roads deadlier.

The latest analysis bolsters the evidence that drivers 70 and older have enjoyed bigger declines in fatal crash rates per licensed driver and per vehicle miles traveled than drivers age 35-54, referred to in the study as middle aged drivers, since 1997.

"That should help ease fears that aging baby boomers are a safety threat. even crashes among older drivers have been on a down swing," says Anne McCartt, the institutes senior vice president for research and a co-author of the study.

8 people like this
Posted by Not So Foreigner
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 5:15 pm

Wo Senior!!

And you thought you were lecturing someone else on stereotyping? And please tell me how do you make a judgement call that they are "foreigners" that are solely responsible for the driving errors that you note in your comment? Just because they look different? And where did your ancestors come from???

This is a sad, unfortunate incident and my heart goes out to all the victims. Please, let us take a moment to pray.

4 people like this
Posted by Senior
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 6:08 pm

Senior doctors have a hard time telling seniors to arbitrarily stop driving because they've had a birthday, when senior doctors themselves continue playing with lives daily. Numbers should not be the determinate for either skill. Each individual, is individual....that's fair. Anything arbitrary is not fair.
On being 'foreign' I meant people who spent their first 30 years born in other countries, commuting on bicycles, or walking, or only tiny cars on small roads, and then come here learn how to turn on the key, and answer a few totally irrelevant questions i.e. can you smoke with a kid in your car !!!!! REALLY??? and they call it a 'driving' test. Can't read English, but suddenly become expert on our varied assortment of warning signs, detours, etc. etc, So to compensate, they drive way too slowly, or clog intersections with a car length between left-turners at lights, causing accidents, not with the flow. Middle-age native-born Americans likely came home from the hospital in a GM car, and spent every day since birth riding and observing our driving system and flow, and responses. Much of that awareness was absorbed so it was instinct before they even turned 16. I think there might be other factors we should test deeper and crack down on, than age!!!

8 people like this
Posted by Kate
a resident of Heritage Valley
on Sep 23, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Absolutely thoughts and prayers go out to all involved. I'm sure the driver feels awful, it just s o sad for all. My question is how many times is the state going to allow this type of confusion behind the wheel? If a teenager mixed up the brake for the gas, they would most likely have their driving privilege suspended. The Doctors could have a say, but DMV should require all drivers to retest both behind the wheel and written. These test should be required for all drivers and more often after 60 years of age. Yes, that means I woulD be required to retest in a year. But I'm okay with it, if my mind or reflexes are putting myself or others at risk I would surrender my privilege to drive. I'm sure many drivers over 60 are just fine behind the wheel, but our reflexes and our minds start to change with age.

11 people like this
Posted by Duhrty Olhdman
a resident of Canyon Creek
on Sep 23, 2015 at 7:10 pm


You need to slow down there on that google machine. Your words are right up there for you (and everyone to read). No confusion here. Apparently it's wrong if people age discriminate, but it's ok for you to be bigoted.

1 person likes this
Posted by WhyNot
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Sep 25, 2015 at 10:19 am

WhyNot is a registered user.

I'm not very well informed on the law in accidents like this. Could someone explain why charges would not be discussed in a case where someone dies as a result of a driver's actions? Also, what is the rationale behind having the driver remain anonymous in news accounts?

7 people like this
Posted by Franco
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Sep 25, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Franco is a registered user.

Does anyone remember these events:

<<Oakland Tribune July 6, 2007

PLEASANTON -- No one was injured Thursday morning when a woman arriving for an appointment accidentally drove her Cadillac sedan through the glass windows of a Pleasanton beauty salon.

No one was in Lil's Salon when the car crashed through the front just before 8 a.m.

Police said the driver, a woman in her 80s, said her foot slipped from the brake and hit the accelerator.

Contracosta Times Jan. 15, 2011

PLEASANTON -- Cosmo Panetta has been cutting hair at his Pleasanton barbershop since 1974, but Saturday he was glad he was taking a break.

Pleasanton police say that just after 3:30 p.m., an elderly man lost control of his car and crashed through the front window of Cosmo's Barbershop, 4275 First St.

Six or seven customers were in the shop at the time of the accident, Panetta said. Panetta was sitting in one of the chairs reserved for waiting customers and watching the Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game instead of his usual barber chair at the front of the shop.>>

At the time I thought it was miraculous that no one was killed. The Cosmos event demonstrated that besides pedal application error, there is gear shift application error.

From the March 2012 report by the NHTSA on pedal application error there are some very noteworthy results:

<<The U-shaped curve (under 21 and over 75) relating pedal misapplication crash involvement to driver age raises questions about possible underlying causes. The lack of experience among young/novice drivers certainly cannot be overlooked; this group is still learning simple vehicle control skills, and have not developed the muscle memory, nor the attentional, judgment, and decision making skills that are critical to smooth and safe vehicle operation......

But the factor that best explains overinvolvement in these crashes at both ends of the driver age distribution is poor executive function. The areas of the brain that support executive function are the last to develop, not reaching full maturity until early adulthood (Zelazo, Craik, & Booth, 2003). Corey-Bloom et al. (1996) found that the neuropsychological profiles of older (65 to 74 years old) and very old (85+) individuals could be distinguished almost exclusively by examining performance on executive tasks. Multiple studies have shown a relationship between poor performance on tests of executive function and increased crash risk. Specifically, Freund et al. (2008) found that drivers with deficits in executive functioning had increased pedal application error rates...........

This is a less than satisfactory explanation for the other, overarching finding in these analyses, however, i.e., that women drivers involved in pedal misapplication crashes outnumber men by a margin of roughly 2 to 1, while male drivers account for approximately 60% of all crashes.>>

So, age enters the equation only to the extent of loss of executive function and for some reason two-thirds of the over 75 accidents are caused by females. A take away may be that the DMV perhaps should include an executive function test to keep a license renewed, and perhaps this test should apply across the board because there are other groups in the population that exhibit poor executive function (e. g., diabetic neuropathy).

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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