Elderly Driving: A Peril to Society
The older you are the wiser you will have become is a classic saying that adorns the elderly with experience and wisdom. One might recall endless stories beginning with “back in my day,” but what about the stories in present-day? Countless senior citizens have provided some interesting news stories for reporters in recent years; major accidents, which many have only seen in movies, have become real life due to elderly driving. In 2003, George Weller, an 89-year old man sped into a local farmers market. Ten people died and seventy were left injured. (CBS News). USA Today reported about a Elizabeth Grimes, a 90-year old woman, who was seen backing out of her driveway, across the lawn, and onto the adjacent curb. Only six blocks away she ran through a red light and slammed into a “17 year old high school junior who was driving to school to take an algebra test. Five days later she died.( Davis and DeBarros).” Westport news describes further accidents: A 72-year-old New Canaan man faced vehicular manslaughter charges for allegedly striking and killing a motorcyclist last fall. In Darien, an 89-year-old man turned himself in after allegedly hitting and severely injuring 15-year-old pedestrian on Hoyt Street. He claimed he didn't know he hit anything until he saw the accident reported in the paper the next day.
I have always wondered as sitting in the passenger seat, “Why is he or she still on the road?” as my father would pass the below speed limit driver and then informed me there were no precautions for unsuitable elderly drivers in most states.
Just a couple days ago my friends and I had an encounter with an elderly driver. It was a Friday night, only 7 P.M. but the roads were slammed in the high traffic area of Chesapeake we were crossing. As we crossed an intersection, the Chrysler 300 to the left of us was signaling to come over--although it is illegal to cross at an intersection. My friend, being the cautionary driver she is, slowed down to accommodate the Chrysler. Seconds upon seconds went by and the driver still had not made the cross-over. Finally, it began to merge in front of us at a gradual, lingering speed but then it stops with absolutely no cars in front of him. Why? Who knows. It completes it merge and seconds later it is back on the left side where it began. This embodies the frustration that drivers face when behind an unfit elderly driver.
This issue is becoming more prevalent now that the oldest baby boomers are turning sixty-five this year (Kennedy). By 2030, the Census Bureau projects that there will be 9.6 million people eight-five and older which is 73 percent more than today (Davis and Debarro). A Carnigie Mellon University study has reported that drivers 85 and older are four time as likely to get in accidents than teens(VOA News).
Although there is no certain age, many people agree there is a time when drivers need to hand over their keys. What defines this time? AARP, the American Association of retired Persons, has a list of signs that give meaning to the right time: frequent close calls, dents and scrapes on the car, trouble judging gaps in traffic at intersections, other drivers honking at you, getting lost, difficult seeing the sides of the road when looking straight, slower response time, getting distracted easily, difficulty turning head to back up and change lanes, and traffic tickets.
Some persons believe that having a retest for senior citizens is age discrimination. However, I find that there is science, studies, stories, and statistics that justify why elderly citizens should be retested for the good of the nation. In addition, prohibiting the independence and freedom of citizens makes it hard for some to come to terms with revoking their parents and grandparent licenses. Just as murderers have some of their freedoms taken away for the greater good, driving has to be regulated so that more senior citizens do not become predator to...
Cited: Dugan, Elizabeth. The Driving Delemna. Harper Collins e-books. 13 Oct. 2009.
Hughes, Tiffany. The Role of Lifestyle Factors in Cognitive Aging and Dementia. ProQuest LLC. 14 Nov. 2011.
Kennedy, Angela. "Candrive: driving research for older adults." Occupational Therapy Now. Sept.-Oct. 2010. Health Reference Center Academic. Web. 15 Dec. 2011.
Span, Paula. “Elderly Drivers Fail a Test.” NY Times.com. 27 May 2011. 12 Dec. 2011.
Voice of America
White, Benjamin. Telephone interview. 17 Dec. 2011.
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