The recent conviction of a man in Los Angeles for vehicular manslaughter highlights the issue of age and driving. While courts ponder what to do with the elderly man who killed ten people when his car slammed into a crowded Flea Market, discussion around the accident has surfaced about age and driving restrictions.
It's an issue that politicians have been unwilling to face for political as well as other reasons, but the recent conviction in California has again brought the issue to the forefront. Is there a need for driving restrictions related to age, and how old is too old to drive?
It's a fact of life that we all age, and in time most of our physical abilities deteriorate. One of the things that we lose with time is our reflexive response, which is a necessary component of safe driving. The tricky thing with aging is, we all don't age at the same pace. There are some people in their 80's who are as sharp as a tack, and capable of driving under most conditions, and I've known others in their 50's who have no place behind the wheel.
So many factors come into play when it comes to aging, that it makes setting a mandatory age for driving restrictions difficult if not impossible. How would you go about implementing such restrictions? And when it comes to age and driving, it's not just the elderly that are a problem, what about the other extreme, the one's that are too young to drive?
Having earned a living behind the wheel for a good part of my life, I've seen all types of bad drivers. Some of the worst I encounter on a daily basis are not the aged, but the young inexperienced driver. Whether it's the young boy zipping in and out of traffic jumping from one lane to another, or the young girl driving up on your bumper at 65 miles an hour, neither have experience or common sense when comes to driving, and oftentimes put themselves as well as others at risk with their foolish driving habits. Should we also look at raising the age for driving? Is 16 perhaps too young for most kids to be behind the wheel?
One of the ideas that has been kicked around is setting an age at which people would have to take an annual driving test in order to maintain their driving privileges. Just as there is a minimum age at which someone can apply for a driving license, should there be an age at which people would have to show that they are still capable of driving safely? If so, what would that age be? And what kind of test?
For instance, a simple driving test that a person takes when they first apply for their license may not provide an accurate reading of whether or not a person is still capable of driving or not. A test for seniors may have to be created that relies more on mental faculties and judgment abilities. How to you administer that kind of test fairly? This type of testing would by it's nature seem to be very subjective and prone to error and misjudgment. Should a person in their 70's have to pass the same test as a 16 year old?
Driving is a privilege that we enjoy throughout our lives. It represents many things to us including mobility, opportunity, and for many of us a sense of freedom. Having just recently completed a trip across country by car, I know how important my driving privilege is. It has enabled me to see places that I would never have been able to see otherwise. It's also allowed me to earn a living. It has been a refuge in bad and sad times. I can't imagine not being able to drive. Taking away my driving priviledge would be taking away a large part of my life.
However, that privilege also carries with it responsibility, and a major part of that responsibility is the ability to drive a vehicle in a manner that doesn't endanger others. Does there come a time when a person should have to give up their driving privilege? How old is too old to drive?
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