Tuesday, September 05, 2006

When Do You Stop Driving?

A number of years ago I was in a small shop on Main Street in my hometown going over a possible purchase when I heard some screams and a series of crashing sounds outside the door. The shop owner and I both went outside and could see that a car had driven a small ways down the sidewalk, taking out parking meters. The car was being driven by an elderly woman. Since she had been driving between the buildings and diagonally parked cars on the street, she had damaged other cars and damaged her own car by scraping against buildings.

As the police arrived we learned that she was fleeing from a hit and run just a few blocks away. The next day our local papers carried the story of course and added a little bit I didn't know. Her driver's license had been denied two years before because she could not see well enough to drive and she was uninsured because she had no license to drive. I don't know what was done about her but it was sad on several levels. An elderly woman, who was used to being independent, could no longer be independent and her refusal to accept this caused problems for a lot of people.

Sadly, this is not a rare or uncommon problem. A Detroit area academic was recently hit by an elderly driver while crossing a street on foot. Here is how she described the event.

As I lay on the street, a chrome bumper inches from my head, a fashionably attired elderly woman jumped out, yelling loudly, "I had a stroke. I can't see good. What are you doing here?"

For months, the woman's words echoed. I escaped with scrapes and bruises, but she could have killed me. How can a responsible person say, "I had a stroke. I can't see good," and still drive?

According to her, and I am unable to verify her statistics, people over 75 are 37% more likely to have an accident under identical driving conditions than younger people. She also points out that they may lie about blackouts etc that also cause accidents.

I don't know what exactly should be done about this but we need to start testing people more thoroughly and frequently as they age. They need to be checked for eyesight, hearing, reflexes and likelihood of a stroke or blackout while driving. It would be sad to do this to people who are used to be independent, but it just cannot be helped. I really don't want to see them kill or injure anyone, or be killed themselves.

3 Comments:

Blogger ABFreedom said...

I agree, and should also come up with a reasonable, affordable, easy solution to get them around, so they don't feel so helpless when they finally have their lic. taken away.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Gayle said...

People are living longer, thus the rules must change. I am 65 and still enjoying 20/20 vision. I have been driving most of my life; in fact, I began driving with a lincense wnen I was 17. I have driven from coast to coast many times and in all the time I have been driving I've never recieved a ticket. I have always enjoyed the "safe driver" status on my driver's license.

I recently drove my daughter (adopted grandaughter) from Central Texas, way out in the boondocks, too Phoenix, AZ, where you would swear most of the drivers are on speed, or something even worse. But I had no problem.

There might come a time when I lose my concentration, or my eyesight, or my ability in either one of those areas. Being the great driver I've been all of my life, I hope that never happens; but I know without a doubt that sooner or later it will. When that time comes to pass, I hope and pray that I will take myself off the road; if I don't have the sense to do that I hope someone does it for me. The worst thing I can imagine is being responsible for someone's death because I don't know what I'm doing.

1:46 AM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

I just hope I have the sense to stop driving when I become impaired - if I live that long.

4:07 PM  

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