I have an opinion that I think many of my fellow retirees probably do not share, on a sensitive subject among us old folks:
I think that all older people ( as well as most younger ones), should have to take a driving test in order to get a driver's license. There! So shoot me.
It is not that I am anxious to get behind the wheel with an examiner who is no doubt crabby, bored, under-paid and over-worked. That is a level of stress that everyone would like to avoid, but who said driving was not stressful? It is the ability to deal with it and all the other hazards on the road that make a good driver. Most of us feel that we are experienced, careful, capable and responsible drivers. So why be afraid to prove it?
Of course, the sad truth is, that while we are for sure experienced, and no doubt careful and responsible, not all of us are capable. Our reflexes, our eyesight and hearing, our perceptions, are all diminished with age and often we do not recognize the loss of these functions. That is not to say that many older people are not perfectly able and good drivers with many years on the road still ahead. It is just that some are not. I don't believe there should be an age limit on driving, just that there should be adequate testing for capability.
The written test which is administered in California can be passed by anyone with the ability to read and understand the manual which lays out the laws and traffic rules. But knowing, for instance, how far ahead of a turn you should turn on your blinkers does not a safe driver make. Of course, it it helpful to recognize the different traffic signs, but we all know that stuff already from years of driving.
What counts is if you are able to stop in time to avoid a collision, or if you are aware of what is happening several cars ahead, or if you have noticed that car in the intersection before you make your left turn.
I renewed my drivers' license in 2009 on my 89th birthday. I went in, took the written test, (which I aced, as I always do, because, for heaven's sake, I can read that manual, can't I?), took a cursory vision test, and walzed out with permission from the State of California to drive an automobile until I am 94 years old. I read of a man last week whose license had been renewed until he was 100.
I live in a small town with hardly any traffic and my driving these days is confined to familiar routes: the supermarket (two blocks away), my hairdresser (the other end of town, maybe a mile), my doctor (four blocks) and on occasion, the local hospital where most of the specialists are located, 6 miles out of town on a little-traveled freeway or my favorite back roads along the lake. I do not drive after dark or on stormy days. I do not drive if I am feeling below par. My family helps me keep my car gassed up and in good condition. I do not like driving. I never have, but as for so many of us seniors it is the key to the independence which is so vital to our lives. I feel as comfortable as I always have while driving, but the minute I begin to doubt my abilities, I will turn over my keys.
Of course, seniors are not the only hazards on the road. Teenage drivers have inordinately high death statistics. Many ordinary citizens are terrible drivers and a menace behind the wheel. My position: Test 'em all! No money, we hear. But the cost of unnecessary accidents and the toll in lives lost or ruined caused by bad driving is incalculably greater. As for people who text, or gab away on their cell phones while driving, the penalties should be the same as for drunk driving.
OK. So I've got that off my chest. Lord, this blog is wonderful!! Everybody should have one to blow off the steam!