MANCHESTER — Two older drivers crashed their vehicles in similarly bizarre but separate incidents days apart in this Ocean County township.

First, on Tuesday, an 86-year-old man struck through several business road signs before crashing into a QuickChek sign on Route 70 near Route 571. Rescuers had to help Harold Barnett, a township resident, out of his 2006 Honda Civic and take him to Community Medical Center in Toms River. Police said he had a chest injury.

Then on Thursday morning, a 90-year-old township woman crashed her 2002 Toyota Camry into three neighbors' houses in the Leisure Village West section before hitting a tree and rolling over.

Maria T. Pannizzo, who police don't think was wearing a seat belt, was taken to Community Medical Center with a possible broken arm and hand.

Police said Barnett had started by trying to make a left-hand turn from the Santander Bank on Route 70. Instead, he drove across the road and struck the curb, losing control.

Pannizzo's incident began after she backed out of her Buckingham Drive driveway and tried to go left. Instead, police said she "over-accelerated" and struck the side of a neighbor's house.

She then put her car into reverse and once again left the road, hitting two more homes.

She then drover forward several hundred feet before going off the road again and hitting the tree, which caused her car to land upside down, police said.

It was not clear Saturday if police had charged either driver with moving violations.

Last year, Gov. Chris Christie said he wouldn't be against considering requiring older drivers to retake road tests to renew their driving licenses. Assemblyman John Wisnkiewski, a Democrat who is now running for governor, agreed it was an idea worth considering.

A survey by AAA/Mid-Atlantic found that nearly 70 percent of respondents in New Jersey favor driver retesting starting at age 40.

But studies have also shown that older drivers are often the safest drivers.

Christie on older drivers:

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email

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