Sunday, July 30, 2006

"Simple Mistake" My Foot

A "simple mistake by an 85 year old man"? If the driver in question had been 25, do you think the police would have said "Oh, it's just a simple mistake. No charges will be filed." When you get confused about the accelerator and the brake pedals, that's far more than "a simple mistake".

It's a testament to the power of the senior lobby that there hasn't been a push for mandatory testing of older drivers with revocation of the license as a possible penalty. While teenage drivers have more accidents per capita, seniors and teenagers have the same rate of accidents per mile driven. Senior drivers have high per mile fatal accident rates, and those 85 and older have the highest fatal accident rate of any age group.

I don't advocate automatically taking away a driver's license just because you're old. If you're 96 and still have good hearing, eyesight, and reflexes, go for it. If you're 55 and unable to meet a certain minimum threshold, then you should voluntarily give up your license and if you're not willing to do that, the state should take it away from you.

I understand that limited mobility and isolation can be problems for those elderly who do not or cannot drive, and I also call for the state to fund and implement better access to transportation for the elderly. It's a matter of safety for all of us, not just Grandma Betty. Living in Our Fair City, with its aging (aged) population, I've had my share of close calls with elderly drivers who blow through stop signs, drift over the yellow line, bump other cars in the parking lot because they can't manuever their cars in and out of the parking spots, and worse. In fact, on my very first day in this city, I was in the car with Hulio, stopped at a red light, when suddenly another car plowed into the back of us. The 84 year old woman behind the wheel first said that she'd gotten confused and hit the gas instead of the brake, but by the time the cops showed up, she changed her story to "My Club had rolled under her brake pedal and prevented her from depressing it to stop. The police declined to cite her because, according to them, they couldn't cite a driver unless someone was injured badly enough to be taken to the hospital. Frankly, I'm still insulted by the low opinion he must have had of our intelligence to make up such a stupid lie. He should have just said "It was a simple mistake by an 84 year old driver."



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