Dare to Ask: Debating (older) age and driving
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Do most older people feel it's wrong for society to ask them not to drive?
S.W., 20, female, Johnson City, Tenn.
My grandmother is a decent driver, but her boyfriend is terrible. He speeds,
flips the bird and goes on a tirade if he's cut off. . . . He is a danger to
everybody on the road, and he knows it. But he still feels it's his right to be
on the road.
Craig, 21, Duncan, Canada
Many of the residents where I work recognize it's best for their own safety
and others, so they gave up their car keys long ago.
Anne C., 24, Iowa City, Iowa
I think all old people should be required to retake a special license test at
age 65. The test should check eyesight, hearing and basic motor skills.
Nick, 17, Cromwell, Conn.
Nick: The DMV should require everyone to retake the driving test, maybe every
five years. . . . Considering the fact you have been driving for a maximum of
two whole years, you probably don't have the best clues on "good" driving.
QTCali Gurl, California
Plenty of older people cause accidents. I work in a hospital and treat them.
I've had several near-misses with older people simply because they can't see
over the steering wheel of their mammoth-size Caddies.
Jen R., 28, Greenfield, Pa.
It would be nice to have someone over, say, age 28 answer a question directed
at old people. Failing that, never fear, 31/2-year-old Dare to Ask is here.
We found Fred Thomas, an instructor at the Traffic Safety Center in
Gainesville; at 67, he may not be the oldest driving teacher in Florida, but
he's brandished that dreaded clipboard a long time: 42 years.
No one does a jig - or jitterbug - when asked to put it in park for good, he
"For older men, it's part of their manhood; it's a cut on that. For women,
it's an independence thing in general."
Thomas said about 90 percent of older drivers he tests do "OK," though some
have vision problems or are left-foot brakers who grew up driving stick-shifts.
"You hear about them driving through storefronts."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers 65
and older made up 15 percent of all licensed drivers in 2006, but accounted for
only 10.4 percent of fatal crashes, compared to drivers ages 35 to 54, who had
the highest rate at 33.8 percent.
If you're concerned about an older driver, though, the NHSTA says you can
seek guidance from a physician, or resources such as AAA or AARP.
Another option (we're talking scorched-earth policy here; check to see if
you're in the will) is to write your state's Department of Motor Vehicles and
express your concerns about the driver in question.
The DMV may test the driver. But in Florida, older people can rest easy: It
won't include parallel parking.
" 'Blue Power' - blue-haired ladies - lobbied against that years ago and got
it repealed," Thomas said.
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to phillip. email@example.com. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his