Is Grandma a Better Driver than Sonny?
Ryan McLaughlin sent the following letter
I just have a few comments on the issue of elderly drivers. I think it makes sense that we take a closer look at evaluating the abilities of older people when it comes to driving. I don't think anyone would argue that our reaction times and reflexes diminish as we age, and, therefore, we should not be behind the wheel of a half-ton chunk of hurtling metal. In fact, I should say up front that my own grand- mother, whom I love dearly, routinely scares the holy heck out of us grandkids with her Mario Andretti impersonations on the way to the bingo parlor (and let's not forget she's driving a red, 1960s-era Mustang convertible...I get chills just thinking about it). So, I have some firsthand knowledge on this issue.
But, to be honest, the main problem I have had with elderly drivers in general is not that they are too reckless, but, quite to the contrary, that they are way, way too CAUTIOUS. Everyone has been behind one of these drivers, I'm sure, moving like glops of arterial cholesterol down the road, hazard lights blinking. In fact, it's quite clear that most of the accidents on the roads are caused by drunk or careless drivers, e.g., people using cell phones, applying makeup or not paying attention to where they are as they're going 50-60 mph through a school-crossing zone.
I would argue that, despite their age and somewhat hampered physical abilities, older people are probably MORE attentive to what's happening on the road than some Volvo-driving, latte-swilling, yuppie blabbermouth commuting to his/her perhaps financially rewarding yet still personally unfulfilling job. This is the population we should be after, not the over-50 crowd. I say anyone between the ages of 28 and 39 making more than $60,000 should be stripped of their license; given a bus pass; and their overpriced, underused trophy sport utility vehicle sold at auction to pay for new bifocals for the over-50 drivers. I'm telling you, the roads would be 10 times safer.
My point, and I do have one, is that we should hold the elderly to the same standards we hold all drivers to. That is: mess up and we take away your right to drive. Or keep better tabs on drivers of all ages. Make everyone take an actual DRIVING test every few years, and run it so that it actually means something. And if they fail, take their license away no matter what age they are. That's not a crime; it's a crime to leave drivers like that out on the road with my friends and family.
Let's get the bad drivers off the road, not just the elderly ones. My grandmother's never been in an accident. I'd rather have 10 of her out on the road than one stockbroker. Only...Grandma? Leave the mustang home.