They're at it again
Spring is a time of crocuses and robins. It's the time when a young man’s fancy is said to lightly turn to thoughts of love or, if you're my age, baseball. It's also the time when some formerly hibernating senior citizens who have no business driving get back on the road and create a menace to all of us. There were two examples of this over the weekend in the Pittsburgh area (just imagine how many occurred nationwide). A contributor to the O-R daily poll noted that on Saturday, an older driver slammed his car into a house in Penn Hills, damaging the home and rupturing a gas line. Then, on Sunday, we saw just how deadly some of these over-the-hill drivers can be. An 82-year-old woman ran over and killed an 80-year-old man who was standing in the parking lot of the DeLallo Italian Marketplace in Hempfield, Westmoreland County. The woman, who was backing up her car to leave the lot, told police she saw the man in her rear-view mirror and initially hit the brakes, but then put her foot back on the gas when she could no longer see him. In short order, the old guy was dead. And we're not talking about someone briefly hitting the accelerator, backing up a few feet and striking a pedestrian. The elderly lady must've really jammed on the gas pedal, because police say she plowed over three concrete planters before taking out the poles holding up an entranceway awning at the business. Sometime during the demolition derby, the old man was trapped under her car. My question is this: How many times does this kind of thing have to happen before those with the power to do something (your state legislators) require that drivers over a certain age must be subjected to new physicals and driving tests? As it stands now, only a couple of states require that the elderly pass new road tests to renew a license. In most states, senior citizens of any age can renew their licenses just by cutting a check and sending in a form. No questions asked. We hear people make the excuse that young drivers are dangerous, too, but that's a red herring. Young drivers, provided they survive those dangerous early years behind the wheel, will go on, on average, to become better drivers. For many elderly drivers, it's a one-way trip toward becoming a hazard to themselves and others who have the misfortune to share the roads with them. A USA Today story from 2007 cites a Carnegie Mellon University study that found the fatality rate for drivers aged 75 to 84 was equal to the rate of teens, but drivers 85 and older had a fatality rate four times that level. The story also cited a prediction by road-safety analysts who say that by 2030, when all of the baby boomers are at least 64 years old, they will account for a full quarter of all fatal crashes. That figure was 11 percent in 2005. The threat is clear. When is somebody going to do something about it? I know our state lawmakers are generally the worst kind of cowards when it comes to offending constituents (especially those who vote in large numbers), but enough is enough.