FHP: Dementia one of leading causes of wrong-way driving

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — A wrong-way driver was stopped on the Turnpike in Lake County before a tragedy could happen, Florida Highway Patrol troopers said.

A report said the driver may have been suffering from dementia, which numbers show is one of the leading causes of wrong-way crashes.

The incident involving the 76-year-old man was caught on camera.

Early Friday evening, on the Turnpike in Lake County, troopers were in a mad dash to stop the driver.

“He’s at a high rate of speed going through the SunPass lane. Far left lane, coming up the toll,” the trooper told a dispatcher.

A toll booth worker called troopers when she saw Don Hagedorn get onto the Turnpike from an exit ramp in Howie-in-the-Hills.

It triggered an immediate response from troopers, who were nearby and managed to cut him off before he could crash into someone.

A trooper wrote in a report, “I noticed he didn’t really know what was going on,” and “I asked him if his wife lives in Florida and he had said she passed away, but his wife was actually alive and was in the middle of filling out a missing persons’ report with the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.”

The trooper asked the driver for his keys and said Hagedorn gave his shoe instead.

Troopers were told by a relative that Hagedorn had been suffering from signs of dementia.

The driver was reunited with his wife at a Leesburg hospital.

An FHP sergeant said that since the agency began tracking wrong-way drivers two years ago, they received 452 reports in Central Florida.

Dementia is the second leading cause of wrong-way driving incidents behind drunk driving.

The day after the Hagedorn was stopped, a trooper stopped a man, also with dementia, who was driving the wrong way on Interstate 4 in Volusia County.