Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Unsafe at Any Age?
Remember Unsafe at Any Speed? The book that condemned the Chevy Corvair as a deathtrap -- written back in the day when people didn't want nanny governments telling them they needed to buckle up.
Portland recently experienced a tragic traffic accident where an older driver (70+) hit two pedestrians, one a father pushing a stroller (pictured above) containing his toddler. The child stopped breathing at the site but was revived by two nurses who happened upon the accident. The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with police. Sadly, the child did not survive and Portlanders are saddened by the toddler's death.
Since the driver was "older" there has been the usual outcry that "old people" should automatically have their licenses revoked. Some think regular written and driven exams should be required for "elder" drivers to be re-licensed. No one seems to agree on the definition of "old."
Personally, my life has been endangered way more often by people under 65. Teenagers with their immature pre-frontal lobes, multi-tasking "soccer moms," men in the midst of their mid-life crisis, etc. Just walking the dog every day I observe suburbanites in their 30s-50s ignoring stop signs, cutting corners, and speeding through neighborhoods full of children and pets.
The point being -- it isn't just older drivers who pose a danger on the roads.
Sure, our reflexes slow with age. Our senses take a hit. Can't see as well at night, can't tell from which direction the sound of the siren is coming, and so forth. But I also observe that other (younger) drivers create situations that startle older drivers who may be slow to react. Tailgating, jockeying through traffic, cutting off other drivers, failure to turn on headlights in inclement weather, and on and on.
So is an alert and defensive driver of 65 with a stellar driving record more dangerous than an 18-year-old pumped up on hormones? More dangerous than the businessman fussing with paperwork on the passenger seat? The mother who keeps checking out her child in the back seat? The middle-aged man in the red muscle car?
Statistics indicate the very young and very old drivers cause the most accidents. But it only takes a fraction of one inattentive second by any driver or pedestrian for the worst to happen.
If we are going to crack down on older drivers to assure that they are safe, then we also need to make sure that they have readily available safe and affordable transportation when their licenses are revoked. I'm very fortunate that I'm in a position to drive my mother to all of her medical appointments and on her errands. I don't know who is going to chauffeur me when the time comes.
The hearts of Portlanders go out to everyone involved in the above accident. I can't imagine how the parents and family of the child are coping.