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Older Drivers: Should They Be Tested?

Apr 192012
 
 By , April 19, 2012
Older Drivers: Should They Be Tested?

Some call it profiling. Some call it discrimination. Some call it stereotyping.

Some call it “Grandma, you can’t keep ripping off my metropolitan phonebook in order to see over the steering wheel!”

Whatever one’s gut reaction to the issue of older drivers, the aging of the vast Baby Boom generation demands that the subject be discussed, in order to achieve a balance between road safety and harmonious, productive “golden years.”

Sadly, society has found it difficult to conduct a meaningful dialogue about the potential dangers. Seniors’ knee-jerk reaction is to dwell on how much better they drive than teenagers. Thoughtful seniors will concede that there is a certain unfairness to challenging someone to a urination contest when you haven’t quite got your incontinency medication right.

The debate is clouded by the fact that all drivers are different and no age group has a monopoly on driving skills. Older drivers are superior in many aspects of the task, but studies have shown a frightening dimension to their road rage. (“Dadgummit, tomatoes just don’t taste like they did when I was growing up — and SOMEBODY is going to pay!!!”)

Studies show that seniors have a slower reaction time when faced with glaring headlights and other distractions. I don’t mean to question the researchers, but many of the elderly are still adept at snap decisions. (“So this is your new girlfriend. She has tattoos. That means she’s a prostitute!”)

The ability to continue driving is important to the DIGNITY of seniors. They can regale their passengers with dignified stories of “Did I ever tell you what my friends and I did at WOODSTOCK? We were still laughing about that when we bought our first polyester leisure suits and platform shoes. Breaker, breaker, good buddy. Are you still listening back there?”

According to USA Today, more than 600,000 drivers age 70 and above voluntarily take themselves off the road each year. We need to help seniors recognize the tell-tale signs that they need to shift to a less independent lifestyle. If you drive while talking on the phone — the LAND-LINE phone — it’s probably time to hang up the keys. If you dutifully look both ways at an intersection — because you never know when the Pony Express could come by — it’s probably time to hang up the keys. If you pull to the shoulder of the road out of respect for a funeral procession, and don’t start up again until you hear the wagon driver chanting, “Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!” — it’s probably time to hang up the keys.

The situation demands a wide arsenal, including periodic testing of ALL drivers who have brushes with the law, respectfully customized restricted licenses, a streamlined process for reporting concerns and heightened publicity for AARP driver education programs.

One of the greatest dreads of adult children is the time that they must ask their parents to surrender their car keys. Of course this process is made much easier if the parent flaunts a Winnebago plastered with bumper stickers such as “I’m Spending My Children’s Inheritance.” (“It’s safer if you give up driving, Dad. And you never know when the batteries in the TV remote will start a fire. And I’ve heard some disturbing things about the potential danger of recliners…”)

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Danny Tyree

Welcome to Tyrades! By Danny Tyree. Controversial author Harlan Ellison once described the work of Mr. Tyree as “wonkily extrapolative” and said his mind “works like a demented cuckoo clock.” Tyree generated a particular buzz on the Internet with his column spoofing real-life Christian nudist camps. A lifelong small-town southerner, he graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications. Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades."
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  • Bridget Fawcett Johns

    In Washington state, there are special driving licenses for the elderly. They put restrictions on how far they can go from home (a few mile radius) and time of day restrictions (no night driving) on a driver. It basically allows someone to go to the store or the doctor but not drive everywhere (and definitely not on the freeway). I was involved with telling my grandmother she couldn’t drive anymore. It was the HARDEST thing. Taking away a driver’s license is equivalent to taking away someone’s freedom. 
    And no one does that without a fight. Sometimes, it can be helpful to have a 3rd party evaluate an aging parent/grandparent. Then the family doesn’t have to be the bad guy…a driving instructor can do it.I saw this joke a while back and thought you’d like it: A group of retirees were discussing their medical problems at the Senior Center over coffee one morning.”Do you realize,” said one, “My arm is so weak I can hardly hold this coffee cup.””Yes, I know.” replied the second, “My cataracts are so bad I can’t see to pour the coffee.””I can’t turn my head,” rejoined the third, “because of the arthritis in my neck.””My blood pressure pills make my dizzy,” commented the fourth, adding, “I guess that’s the price we pay for getting old.””Let’s look at the bright side,” piped up the first, “We should be thankful that we can still drive.” -submitted to Guy-Sports.com.