How often have we seen headlines like the one above? Too often. How many times have you been trapped behind an oldster doing 25 in a 40 zone and you can’t get past. I’d be willing to bet that some obscenity crossed your lips along with something along the lines of get off the road you old coot. That old coot is somebody’s grandma or grandpa. They’ve probably never had an accident, or maybe they have, but either way they are a bit of a menace.
So, how old is too old to drive? Over at Ask Patty yesterday, they posted an excellent article by Anne Gowans that poses that exact question. The basic gist of the article is that most older drivers are careful and safe and need their independant mobility. We need to help them know when it comes time to stop driving.
The problem here is how to set a standard. Most old guys will say that they are careful and safe drivers and are quick to point out that they’ve never had an accident. This is one of those times when the numbers don’t always tell the real story. Just because someone hasn’t hit anything doesn’t mean they are a safe driver. Go back to that moving pylon mentioned above. The car doing 2/3 the speed limit is as much or more of a problem than most speeders, as they become an obstacle that increases other driver’s blood pressure. So how old is too old?
Paul Newman turned 82 last Friday. 2 years ago, on his 80th birthday, he celebrated by spending an hour in a Disney, Pixar sponsored race car at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Around the same time, he finished 5th in a Trans Am race in the rain! No mean feat at the best of times, much less for an 80 year old guy. clearly it isn’t time for the voice of Car’s Doc Hudson to turn in his license.
He’s not the only one, look around any paddock these days and you’ll see a growing number of racers in their mid to late sixties. People are healthier later in life these days and are keeping active with sports that were once considered a young man’s game. But these fit, focused folks aren’t really a concern now are they?
The regular world though could learn a few lessons from the racing world though. Most organizations have mandatory recertification for drivers once they reach a certain age. This may be as simple as a observation session, but it is still an opportunity to make sure that a driver still has what it takes.
What do we do on the street? You’ve had a license for 45 years, you pay your annual fee and you keep on truckin’ without so much as a drive around the block. How can any licensing body hand out licenses without knowing if the driver is still qualified to hold it?
My solution? Pick an age, perhaps the traditional senior citizen threshold of 65 and make an annual driver’s test mandatory. Maybe it doesn’t have to be as strict as the original test, we want to see if a person has his wits as a driver, not how well he can parallel park. While we’re at it, why don’t we do the same for all drivers every few years. Our roads would be a safer place. Our elders would be safer as well, not to mention those poor folks in the bus shelter.