All was well on a sunny July afternoon at a Santa Monica farmers' market, where loads of people were gathered outdoors collecting fruit, and enjoying their day. Heart rates increased and tragedy struck as a 1992 Buick emerged into the scene at top speed. The car uncontrollably succeeded in knocking stands over disastrously, managing to steal ten innocent lives, and send about forty to the hospital. The driver, Russel Weller, was an 86-year-old man.
This tragedy revived an issue already controversial: senior driving. It raised questions about when it is safe for seniors to continue driving, and when it is time to take away the keys. Elderly drivers are not necessarily terrible drivers, however nobody can deny that the skills necessary for driving deteriorate with age. The older we get, the weaker our senses become. The majority of us begin to find prescription glasses essential in order to sharpen our sight, and hearing aids to enhance our hearing. Reaction time plays a vital role in life tasks, especially in driving.
Our reaction time definitely begins to deteriorate as we grow older, increasing the risks of automobile accidents involving elderly drivers. Studies prove that older people are among the most accident-prone groups on the road. According to a specific study by John Hopkins researchers for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the crash-per-miles-driven statistics for people age 80 or over is triple that of people ages 65 - 69. Though many older drivers see driving slower as being safer and more cautious, this isn't always the case. When driving slower than the surrounding cars, you are still at risk of getting rear-ended by another vehicle.
In driving school, it is taught to go at the speed of traffic, whether it is above or below the speed limit. This is to obviously prevent the risk of collisions. While elder drivers may be a hazard on the road, it is unfair for their license to be confiscated so suddenly. After all, driving is the ticket to independence. Taking away their advantage of driving is pretty much taking away their freedom, and they are left to burden others in helping them with everyday errands and tasks.
Taking the bus may be an alternative, yet a big adjustment as well. The bus is not at your convenience as a personal vehicle would be, waiting for you in your driveway. Instead, one must abide by the schedule and arrangements the bus sets. According to Daniel Yi, Los Angeles Times writer and author of "Behind the Wheel," some alternatives to driving include bus transportation and walking. Good old fashioned walking can be pleasant as well as a good workout, keeping us in fairly good shape.
The bus can be used for long-distance transportation. You rest while the driver takes you to your destination. Other solutions to the problem with older drivers would be to somehow retest them on their driving ability and skills. Roman do Dixon of the Columbus Dispatch suggests testing adults every five to ten years to make sure everything is working all right. This is a good method until the adult is labeled "unable to drive." Once they are deemed as driving impaired, they should consider the bus and / or walking, and maybe even count on family to help them out by driving them from place to place.
Older people's senses may not be as sharp as they used to be, and their reaction time might be deteriorating as time goes by, which are important reasons as to not allowing them the privilege of driving. However, a gesture such as this seems unjust and somewhat discriminating. Indeed, losing driving privileges can be a great loss of independence for seniors, however, loss of control behind the wheel is even worse.