Monday, February 28, 2011

The Elderly and Driving

Over the weekend I got horrible news: one of my former students was in a very serious accident. He was riding his bike on a dedicated bicycle path, wearing a helmet, when he was run over by a 83-year old turning right without looking. He is in a critical condition, and we still have no idea if he can make it.

I've expressed many times my fear of old drivers. I'm a pedestrian, so it's not difficult for me to stop when needed. Multiple times I had to do it, because an older person driving a car didn't notice me.

I know it's a touchy subject... I understand how difficult it must be to admit one is too old to drive. It takes away personal dignity, self-reliance, freedom. But we need to face the facts: as we age we lose reflexes and our field of vision narrows, not to mention the weakening of the sight and hearing.

We are talking about lives in danger. There are many older people around where I live, with a few retirement houses in my neighborhood. Their tenants as drivers are subject of many jokes... but now there is no joking time when I actually know the victim. He is a young man, absolutely brilliant, bordering on genius in the field of math and science. To think that this brain is unresponsive...

I don't think a full prohibition is needed. But I would love if there was a requirement of tests in order to renew a licence by an elderly person. Let's say once in three years after 65year old (I know that 95% will pass without any problems, but we can catch the few who age faster), and yearly after 70.

Seniors can use public transport, they have good price on the tickets. Because of the new laws there could be more lines opened close to retirement houses.
We are pretty strict against DUI... in a way driving while very old is a similar danger.

Of course I didn't mention the need for more safe bicycle lines, as that's obvious.