A Report from the Other Side of the Thin Blue Line

The person who sent the following letter wished to remain nameless


I have been working as a law enforcement patrolman in the military for 12 years. In that time, I can safely say, most of the accidents I have responded to have involved or been caused by retired military members age 65 and over. I follow these folks down the road at a maximum of five miles per hour UNDER the posted speed limit (meaning that's the fastest they go), keeping anywhere from one to eight cars behind them in a slow-moving motorcade. The only exception to this rule is when someone is late (statistically speaking) for his tee time. Then I pull him over for speeding or driving too fast for conditions. I have responded with lights and sirens blaring, only to be held up behind a senior citizen who slows down to 20 mph or stops in the middle of the road.

As much as I'd like to pull these people over and give them a piece of business (and a ticket), they are generally less important than the emergency to which I'm responding. I find myself forced to veer into the oncoming lane of traffic and hope I can get around them before getting in a head-on collision. These same people then call in my car number and complain about my unsafe driving. After the desk sergeant explains the conditions they posed that caused me to take evasive action, they launch into how it was when they were in the military (give me a break).

I have pulled senior citizens over going the wrong way on a one-way street, taking a wrong turn toward an area of sensitive operations (signs are posted prohibiting Privately Owned Vehicles [POVs]) and trespassing in military restricted areas. One guy even stopped to check the tires on his Winnebago for foreign objects or rocks before driving out onto the military aircraft parking ramp. In each of these cases, these poor folks admitted they were probably too old to drive but wanted to keep their independence. I even had a couple of dear old grandmothers cry when I pulled them over. I feel bad for those nice old folks who have no family to depend on (I think this might be the crux of the problem), but they make the roads unsafe when they are too stubborn to stick within their capabilities.

I made the mistake of bringing this up to a physician while he was treating me. He went into a tirade about how the minimum speed on the freeway is 45 mph (the normal speed is 60 mph--you can see the potential hazards in the speed differential). He also pointed out that young people got into more accidents than old people and old people had cheaper insurance. That brought to mind a few things. First, if someone wants to drive more slowly, that's fine as long as they stick to the far-right lane. But, as was pointed out in a Walt Disney cartoon with Goofy as the driver, these people often stray into the left lanes, causing a pileup of cars and drivers attempting to avoid an accident.

Second, young folks do get a little crazy, and many accidents involving young people could have been avoided. I read some statements from drivers in accidents, and I could see several actions that could have prevented the mishap. What I also saw was statements including a description of a land yacht driving away from the scene, oblivious to any actions the driver had caused that led to the accident. The truth is, many of these self-proclaimed righteous drivers have no idea how many accidents they CAUSE. The insurance company only gets a report on the accidents one is involved in. I have even seen incidents where the senior citizen flees the accident scene because he doesn't want to pay the insurance.

Third, MOST of the accidents in parking lots where I work are caused by a vehicle waiting to park close to the door. We have several handicapped parking slots for use, but when they load up (rather quickly, I may add), the other drivers don't want to walk any farther than they have to. I don't even bother with it. I just grab the first space I see and usually get to the door before these folks even park their car. This even happens at the gym, where people who want to get into shape park as close as they can to the door so they don't have to walk as far. These nice old people then go inside and work out 10 minutes for every 20 minutes of conversation. But that's another complaint, minor in nature, and not worthy of discussion.

Bottom line (I bet you feel foolish for reading this whole thing now that you see you could have come straight to this): These senior citizens, who honestly have the time on their hands to take a little test, don't get offended or go into uproars about things they can do. In other words, the main reason for this outcry against senior citizen driving tests is the fear that they cannot pass the test.

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