Monday, February 15, 2010

Stop the insanity

Anyone who watched the Pittsburgh TV news Friday night or Saturday no doubt saw the coverage of the incident at the Giant Eagle in Murrysville. According to police, an 86-year-old man behind the wheel of a 1993 Oldsmobile (what else) was backing his car out of a parking space when he bashed into a vehicle behind him. At that point, he surged forward, out of control, toward the store's entrance and went up on the sidewalk, hitting an unfortunate 48-year-old woman who was slammed so hard into the front glass door that her body shattered it. The octogenarian then backed up before lurching forward again and smashing into a pillar in front of the store. The woman who was struck had multiple open fractures and chest injuries that required her to be flown to a Pittsburgh hospital. The driver also was flown for treatment. The woman who was hit by the car in this case, believe it or not, is one of the lucky ones. Sometimes people die because family members, doctors and even our state legislators refuse to confront the problem of the dangers posed by elderly drivers who no longer have any business being behind the wheel of a multi-thousand-pound piece of machinery. Much in the way that we need to stop the hazardous practice of people driving while they gab away or text on their hand-held cell phones, somebody needs to address the issue of members of the "greatest generation" mowing down people with their Oldsmobiles and Buicks. Family members need to do whatever is necessary, even reporting their loves ones to the proper authorities, if necessary, to get their parents and grandparents off the roads when they start posing a threat to themselves and others. Doctors need to do their duty by reporting those who should have their licenses pulled. And our legislators should have the courage - yeah, right - to impose mandatory driver re-testing after a certain age. Those who object to these measures often argue that young people have more accidents. Maybe they do, but most of those young drivers, through experience and the maturation process, will eventually become good drivers. Unfortunately, there's really no substitute for experience when it comes to improving one's driving skills. But those young people aren't wrecking because they forget which pedal makes the car go and which one stops it, or which gear makes the car go forward and which one makes it go backward. And those elderly drivers aren't going to get better with advancing age. For most of them, it's a one-way trip toward being a threat to all of us.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe mandatory re-testing of drivers should be conducted every two years beginning at age 65 -- or even earlier. This testing should take them through an obstacle course as well as asking them to pull into and out of diagonal parking places as well as parallel parking. It should also test reaction time, even if it means throwing a non-damaging object like a traffic cone in front of the car while it's moving. I don't care if you've never had wreck or if your vision is 20-20 -- everyone's reaction time slows with age.

If you live in PA and are 86, you've been driving for 70 years without having been re-tested. That's just plain crazy.

February 15, 2010 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I have been driving for 10 years and doubt I could pass a re-test without studying...

I passed a test once when I was 16... in a 6,000 dollar car that was built before DVD's existed... and the fact that I passed that test by getting the minimum number of questions right and not wrecking during the road-test ensures that I am automatically certified to operate vehicles that are as technologically dissimilar to the thing I was tested in as a bull-dozer is to a snowmobile. It's incredible. My next vehicle will probably have more hard-drive storage than my home computer, more LCD screens than my living room, and other technology that did not exist even in the prototype phase when I got licensed... AND it more than likely won't have an internal combustion engine. Essentially, I will be licensed to drive a machine that didn't exist when I actually got the license. That's incredible.

February 15, 2010 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

I still think the idiots with the cell phones are a bigger problem. I swear to god, every time some jackass pulls out in front of me without looking or does something stupid, when you look, there's a cell phone involved.

February 15, 2010 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

I remember my PA test (1977). It was on a little course behind the State Police Barracks. Do they still do that?
I agree, a retest is needed after a certain age.
No one really wants to take another persons independence. But can you live with yourself if they hurt or kill someone because you wouldn't intervene?
My vote is 70 years old or when they start receiving Social Security. Retest every five.

February 15, 2010 at 10:34 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I don't know... if operating a car is anything like setting the clock on the microwave, I think a retest every morning is more like it :-)

February 16, 2010 at 8:32 AM  

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