In the United States, being able to drive is seen as a symbol of independence, which is mainly true. With a car, life is much easier. Even everyday tasks like shopping for groceries or getting across town can take hours on public transportation or be prohibitively tricky, especially if you are older or have a disability.
On a celebrated Internet forum, people debated whether they think it is necessary to require people over seventy to pass a specialized driver’s test to retain their right to drive. Do they have strong opinions on the subject? You bet they do!
A Good Idea
First, while many thought this was a good idea, they questioned whether legislation like this could ever pass, given that many state and federal representatives are themselves in their sixties and seventies. Comments like “Yeah, I’ll call my sixty-eight-year-old congressman and ask him to pass this bill” were plentiful.
Would Voters Reject Such Laws?
Voters rejecting such bills was also seen as an obstacle since many citizens of the United States that vote regularly are retired. Since retirees don’t work, they have much more free time to be interested and active in politics, while younger people working and raising families have much less time for politics and elections.
Election Day Traffic Study
Another interesting point was that a doctor in Toronto, Dr. Donald Redelmeier, did a study on accidents that occur on Election Day. He studied the accident statistics on accidents for every election day for thirty-two years, from Jimmy Carter’s election in 1976 to 2004’s election that put George Bush in office.
The statistics showed an eighteen percent rise in motor vehicle deaths on Election Day compared to the numbers on the Tuesdays before and after the election.
The Cause Was Unclear
The doctor had some theories but no clear answers. While he couldn’t pinpoint why there were this many accidents on Election Day, 24 people dying in automobile crashes and 800 people suffering incapacitating injuries each Election Day was hard to ignore.
These statistics beat days when drinking and driving increased, like New Year’s Eve and the Superbowl, which you might think would be more dangerous. This study was from an article from NPR that the contributor linked because they felt the issues might be related.
Unsafe At Any Speed
There were many personal stories about elders who still tried to drive into their 80s and 90s even though they knew they had issues with vision and mobility. Some of those stories were told about 90-year-olds using sticks to reach the gas and brake pedals and drive even though they have cataracts or have failed the vision test at the DMV.
Your Optometrist Knows
An optometrist noted that he’s had multiple patients come in to tell him they still have their licenses because the clerk at the DMV passed them anyway. However, there was a story about a grandmother who, after being passed by the DMV, even though her vision wasn’t good enough, went back and tried to get the DMV employee who allowed her to keep her license fired.
Part of the problem that people fear is that taking someone’s license away often limits their ability to buy themselves food or get medical care. An excellent suggestion from a respondent was that elders who lose their licenses should be provided with a low or no-cost transportation alternative and help to get them to the grocery store or the doctor whenever they need it.
Maybe Testing Everyone Isn’t a Bad Idea
While many agreed that older adults need to be tested to see if they can still drive, multiple people thought those tests should be expanded to all ages, especially those with accidents or other moving violations like speeding. Making driving tests more complex and testing drivers more frequently is a sensible and fair option that could improve traffic safety.
This thread inspired this post.