Rant and Rave

I Do Love Blue Hair, But...

Here's an issue someone has to talk about--but nobody seems to want to. It's the question of Old Folks and Driving. This seems to be a very sensitive subject. Not a politician in the country wants even to think about it--never mind talk about it--and never, NEVER mind DO something about it. But someone has to do it, and here I am.

Old people--love them as we do--really have lots of accidents. The vehicular fatality rate among people 75 and older is almost as high as that of 17-year-olds. The *accident* rate is probably off the charts, but I can't even find a chart!

Here's the problem. We all want to drive...well, almost all of us. It gives us power and mobility and, therefore, freedom and independence. But some of us just shouldn't be allowed to drive. In our hearts, we all know that. Driving is not a right; it's a privilege. A privilege that must be earned. That is, you have to prove that you're capable. After all, we don't allow 10-year-olds to drive. Why? Because they don't have the physical capabilities or the good sense to handle it.

As we age, we lose both our physical capabilities and our good sense. Yet, in nearly every state of the U.S., all one needs to do is pass a vision test in order to drive--legally--for another five years or so. (A couple of states are considering stricter requirements for the elderly. To my knowledge, none has actually done something about it.)

Of course, you know why no one wants to address this issue: it's politics, of course. Old people vote, and in great numbers--so just about every elected official--the only ones who have the power to do something about this--won't touch it with a 10-foot pole. The elderly have an extraordinarily powerful lobby. First, there's the AARP. I don't know this for a fact, but I'd be willing to bet big money that the AARP lobbyists are quietly telling legislators to leave this alone if they want to get reelected. In addition, AARP members would drop their memberships in a New York minute if they knew that the AARP gave the slightest hint that they shouldn't drive. (AARP, however, does have a pamphlet which contains guidelines for testing yourself to determine if you should be driving.)

And where's AAA on this issue? Why aren't they supporting a movement for stricter licensing requirements? Just another example of the good old boys (yeah, and you too, good old girls) shirking their responsibilities because it might cost votes.

When your reflexes go, you can't stop when that kid runs out into traffic. (Please God, don't let it be MY kid, we all say. But it's going to be someone's kid.) When your sensibilities go, you lose track of where you are and what you're doing. (Please God, don't let the old guy stop in the middle of the freeway and cause a 20-car pileup in front of ME. But it's got to be in front of someone.) It isn't rocket science. Everyone knows what's right and everyone is hiding.

If you don't want them to hide, how about we all write to our elected officials who can--and should--be doing something about this? This is not a federal issue. Individual states determine the rules for driving. So we need to write to our state legislators.

Please write. We've made it easy for you. You can find the names of your state senators and representatives at http://www.govnetworks.com/legislat.htm. We wrote a simple letter that you might just want to copy. (You can also copy and paste the names of your congressman to it.

Here's my simple letter:

Dear______________:

I've been very concerned for a long time now about the fact that there are no special rules regarding the issuance of driver's licenses to the elderly. As we all know, age brings physical and psychological problems that make us less able to cope with the difficulties and uncertainties of driving. This puts us all in danger--especially pedestrians, and most especially young children and, ironically, elderly pedestrians.

We are joining others in an effort to get something done about this very serious issue. We realize it will take courage on your part, given the powerful lobbying efforts of the elderly. But please search your heart and do the right--rather than the political--thing.

Do you personally have any plans to look into this issue?

Thank you for listening.

Tom and Ray Magliozzi
Hosts of "Car Talk" on National Public Radio

Follow-ups:

Keep an Eye Open for Kim's Grandfather
Ready for Your Road Test?
A Tale of a Drivin' Grandma
Is Grandma a Better Driver than Sonny?
Dear Old Dad: A Holy Terror behind the Wheel
A Hopping Mad Old-Timer Chimes In
CHIPs Chime In: A Tale from the California Highway Patrol
Cars...Everywhere!
Caregivers: One Solution to the Blue-Hair Dilemma
How Those Civilised Brits Handle the Problem
When "Stupid Adult Drivers" Get Old
Driving with Alzheimer's: Public Transportation Needed
The Pizza Delivery Guy Chimes In
The Solution: Total Anarchy!
Forget the Amusement Park: Ride with Grandma!
A Report from the Other Side of the Thin Blue Line
The Real Problem? Yuppies!

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