Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Go Speed Racer Gooooo!!!

What is scarier than a vehicle barreling down upon you while you are enjoying a nice stroll through the park? How about an elderly person behind said wheel? I know this is not necessarily an epidemic of any proportion, but I know this is not the first incident I have heard of and it will hardly be the last. Here are some of the stories I went through and gathered.


Now in the first case the elderly man hit 27 victims, but none of them died. The car itself was going no more than 15 MPH, enough to nudge a good number of people, but not fast enough to kill anyone. What would have happened if he were going faster? This could have easily been quite a tragedy.

Drivers 70+ are the second highest group of people that cause traffic fatalities at 25 deaths per 100,000. This is second only to teenagers who are at 30 deaths per 100,000. This makes me question why elderly drivers are allowed to get behind the wheel. I don’t want to pick on all elderly drivers either. There are plenty on the road that do not cause serious issues, but I drive the roads just as much as anyone and can tell you that they do cause their fair share.

Now I don’t want to pick on just elderly drivers. No I think teenagers are even more of a problem and you can look at the stats to back that. For instance the leading cause of death for teenagers is motor vehicle crashes. In 2003 3657 drivers age 15-20 died in car crashes which made up 14% of all driver involved fatal crashes. What should we do not allow teenagers and the elderly to drive I mean it is the god given right, right?

Wrong. Unfortunately many people forget that driving is a privilege and not a right. I have not checked the constitution lately, but I am not sure they added an amendment on that, YET. I remember when I 13 and 14 and kids were already talking about not being able to wait to drive when they were 15-16. I on the other hand did not get my license until 18 and it really did not hold me back any. Of course driving can give you more freedom, but with freedom comes responsibility. At 15-16 how many teenagers are truly responsible enough to handle situations that can occur behind the wheel of a 1-2 vehicle?

Now lets go back to the elderly they have more than enough experience behind the wheel of a vehicle, but as they get older physically and sometimes mentally you slow down as well. Now I know some people will argue with me on this issue saying that I am as fit as I ever was. That is good for you few out there, but as you get older many things change for the majority of people. For instance vision is decreases considerably, reaction time slows down, your ability to take in everything that is happening around you quickly enough to make a snap decision decreases as well. This is not their fault it’s human nature, but trying to face that fact is something that most people find difficult.

Of course age is not the only deciding factor when it comes to accidents. There are plenty of other factors such as passengers in the car, road conditions, sobriety, cell phones, etc. that factor into accidents, but age is one of factors that is a black and white and can easily track. Now what can we do with these 2 age groups?

Lets start by being stricter on who we give drivers licenses to. I remember when I took my drivers test and that road test was as easy as going around the block. Now an untrained monkey could do that in their sleep. This does not prove anything, maybe that you have been in a car at least once before, but it does not test competency. I say 16 may be too early to get your license I think 18 might be a better age. Many people will kill me for that, but again it is not a right and more of a privilege. Sure kids will start working and need transportation, but their can always be exceptions to the rule. Maybe their can be provisions that if you get a job and pass a strict driving test and written test you would be allowed to drive to and from work. Maybe making the tests on both ends stricter would be enough. How about giving the driver a heavier penalty for failing instead of taking it a week or so later. If their were consequences for failing that lets say a person could not take it again for 3-6 months later I am sure people would take it much more seriously. For teenagers it is this seriousness of the whole driving situation that they do not understand and this is something that does need to be addressed.

As for the elderly a similar set of rules should apply to them as well. For instance after the age of 70-75 it should be mandatory that hey prove their driving skill or risk loosing their license. The risk of failing should be just as severe as well. If they do not pass then they have to wait an allotted time period. Hearing and seeing tests should be much stricter as well.

I know this might sound harsh, but besides keeping the rest of the population safe it will also save their lives as well. As the population increases so does the amount of drivers on the road which in turn increases the likelihood that those people will get into an accident. The more responsible and able bodied people who are on the road will make it safer for everyone. What do you think?

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