Thursday, January 25, 2007

dc hates old people who drive

I may have my West Coast biases, but I don’t know anyone who considers DC a model city, a metropolis that other metropolises (metropoli?) can aspire to be. So imagine my shock and surprise when I read this WaPo article: “Putting on the Brakes: At 75 and Older, D.C. Drivers Must Pass 4 Tests to Have License Reissued.” Old people who drive in the District must pass computerized written and road tests every five years when their licenses come up for renewal in addition to the vision and medical tests required after their 70th birthday. All of this to prove that they can still drive safely in their old age. Are you serious? DC is making it harder for old people to keep on driving? FINALLY—a DC bandwagon I can jump on! Why isn’t every major metropolitan area in this country doing this?

It was just this weekend that Jesse and I were driving to party #2 of 4 way out in the ‘burbs when traffic in our lane slowed down suddenly. As we were in the 2 lane portion of 66, it took us a while to get into the next lane to pass the slow driver. But when we did, my suspicions proved true—the slow driver was a rather small elderly lady who could barely look over her steering wheel (in fact, she may have been squinting which is never a good thing while you’re driving). As we passed them by, I said, “Awww…it’s a cute little old lady.” But inside I was wondering, why is such an old woman allowed to drive? Can she even see the road?

Yes, it is cruel of me to suggest that the elderly should stay off of the roads simply because they drive really slowly. But holding up traffic is not all that they do. They cause accidents. In fact, those accidents tend to be pretty bad. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, by 2030, people age 65 and older are expected to represent 25 percent of the driving population and 25 percent of fatal crash involvements. Also, because of the frailty that comes with old age, older drivers are more likely to die from injuries sustained during a car accident than any other age group.

Anybody remember that old guy who drove into a Santa Monica Farmer’s Market on a busy afternoon and killed all of those people? Yeah, well he was 86 years old at the time and probably shouldn’t have been driving if he wasn't sure which pedal makes the car stop. What’s worse is that he recently got off with a slap on the wrist (yes, he was found guilty, but he got off easy because he is old). Are you kidding me? He killed people and injured many more. I’m no legal expert but doesn’t vehicular manslaughter carry some jail time? I’ve seen enough Law & Order episodes to take an educated guess and say, “Yes” with certainty.

So, DC is actually leading the charge against elderly drivers. Way to set the example for the rest of the country, DC. But I feel that it is not enough. DC needs raise the bar and push for age limits. Once you get to a certain age, it should be public transport or bust. Not only would we cut down on the slow drivers in our area, but we would also prevent death and injury from car accidents.

And what could be wrong with that? Sounds like a win-win to me.

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