Old people – should they be allowed to drive?

Old age pensioner - driving a car!

Would you get into a car with someone this old behind the wheel?

It’s a perfectly valid question. Just as people under a certain age aren’t allowed to drive, old folks should be expected to prove they can still cope with modern roads, driving conditions, laws, signs and so on. Personally I think anyone over 60 must retake their driving test every 5 years, and if they did I wouldn’t be surprised to find the roads clear of these bumbling, smiling fools who are one step away from causing a serious accident!

I have a very good reason for today’s rant. When I was 17 I failed my driving test big time, I was way too nervous and unprepared, thanks in part to my moronic driving instructor who couldn’t care less about my ability so long as I kept handing over the cash. Last June I passed my test and I still remember everything my instructor taught me. A good instructor makes all the difference! I’ll be 36 on Monday and even though I’m a new driver, I’m calm, in control and observant of everything around me whilst driving – a world apart from the young careless drivers and the old dangerous drivers I see on the roads every day.

Since last June I’ve seen so many bad drivers, young and old. There’s no excuse for acting like a turd when you’re in control of a potential killing machine. However, I’ve noticed it isn’t the young kids who are dangerous, it’s the old biddies that scare me. Here are a few examples why:

A few weeks ago…

I was driving home from the supermarket. The traffic slowed up to let people pull into a side road. When we started moving again, slow moving I might add, I spotted a white haired old fella trying to pull onto the main road. He seemed to have problems as his car stuttered and jerked. I slowed down to give him room to pull out. Then he stalled his car. No big deal. I do that. I figured he was stationary so I moved ahead. All of a sudden he surged out of the side road, right across my path, swerving all over the place. I break and pulled over to give him room, thankfully the car behind me was quite far back.

I took a deep breath and kept my distance from the crazy old fool who didn’t seem to care he had nearly crashed into me.

Last week…

I needed to go to the bank. I pulled up in the small parking space outside, hand brake on, car secure, locked etc. I noticed in the rear view mirror one of those horrible tiny city cars, bright blue, was pulling in behind me. Just above the steering wheel was a mop of white curly hair. I went to the ATM machine, got my cash and returned to my car. The owner of the blue bubble car was one of the oldest people I’ve ever seen! I’m not joking. I don’t know how she wasn’t dead. She could barely open her door. And when she did I was alarmed to see 2 walking sticks.

My mobile rang so I was able to stand and watch this elderly lady struggling as I talked. I did wonder if I should offer her some assistance but the last time I did that I got nothing but abuse for my efforts. The lady in the bubble car took a few minutes to get out and lock up. I watched her hobble to the bank, she could barely walk. I was told by my friend on the phone to get some stamps from the post office. Big queue.

When I returned the old lady was back behind her steering wheel, revving her engine like she was a Formula 1 driver. It took her a looooong time to manoeuvre her cute bubble city car into the road. By the time I pulled out she had got about 50 yards down the street, on the opposite side, swerving side to side like a drunk driver. She almost collided with 3 cyclists and before she disappeared around the bend she bumped up the curb and rode 2 wheels on the pavement!

Absolutely appalling.

Yesterday…scary, scary stuff…

I was driving into Cambridge and had to slow to 40mph to pass through a village. On the way out, and before the national speed limit applies sign, I became aware that the white mini-bus that had followed me was coming up very fast behind me. Too fast. He swung out across the road and overtook me, I managed to see an old man hunched over the steering wheel – he looked like a corpse. What shocked me was the Dial-A-Ride logo on the side of the mini-bus, this is a service for pensioners to take them shopping or whatever.

I slowed up a little to let him pass. It was a country road, quite wide in that particular area with big grass verges. I figured he would pass me and I’d let him get some distance. I’ve got a funny feeling he wasn’t aware of how far ahead of me he wasn’t because as he drew alongside of my car he suddenly swerved left toward me! I had to break sharply but he kept on coming. In seconds he had pushed me off the road and I had to break fast onto the grass verge.

The mini-bus corpse driver totally failed to judge his distance from me and his speed. And he just drove off. If he had been over taking another old person with reduced reaction times it could have resulted in a nasty accident. Or if he had decided to over take further back in the village…well, death and chaos would be the result.

Today…grinning old fool…

I was leaving a multi-storey car park in town this morning when another old aged idiot nearly caused a whole range of accidents. She backed out of her parking space so fast she nearly hit me. I was waiting for her to pull out, left her more than enough distance to do her thing but again I’m sure she had no idea I was even there.

I followed her through the car park to the exit. On her way the old biddy nearly hit a baby buggy and received an entire string of curses from the alarmed mother. At the turning out of the exit the amazing old fool bumped the curb, knocked over a bin and dragged it along the ground until she bumped back onto the road and drove off.

Independence v Safety.

In fairness I can see how having a car for an old person can give them an element of independence. There are many pensioners who simply aren’t mobile enough to drive a car and stay at home watching TV or staring out of the window waiting. My argument isn’t about forcing all old people off the roads but making sure those that hold a licence are as capable as the rest of us.

In the UK the theory test and practical test have changed again since I took them last year, it shows how out of touch old people can be. I just don’t like the idea of anyone holding a licence for a machine capable of causing so much damage without having all their abilities properly tested.

Take a 70 year old driver, they may have passed their test sometime in the 60’s! Now think of the vast difference in vehicle technology, road conditions, laws and the sheer volume of cars on the road today compared to the swinging sixties! We should all be worried!

There must be statistics that show how reaction time and observation ability decrease with age. It stands to reason that cognitive function reduces with age, and it’s not necessarily illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s that prove mental capacity is failing. Old age brings with it an entire set of factors that can affect a person’s ability to drive safely, yet every day I see old people causing problems and accidents simply because they are old. This isn’t a case of being ageist, it’s making the point that age impacts on everything in life.

When I reach old age I’d rather be tested and be considered fit to drive than bumble my way along the roads, grinning like everything is fine and waiting for the accident to happen.

I smile because I don't know what's going on.

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30 thoughts on “Old people – should they be allowed to drive?

  1. I totally agree with you! Oh wait, first off, glad you didn’t get hurt in any of those excursions. How many times did you have to change your “drawers”? hehe

    This is a big subject here in the U.S. as well, more particularly in my state of Delaware. There are a lot of windy rodes in the southern area of the states and definitely not safe for these ole coots to be out there NOR on the highways.

    With your permission, I’d like to reblog and add my please to the U.S.

  2. Hi Noob,

    I think the old dithery driver is as bad as the young stud speed merchant who treats his car like an extension of his manhood 🙂 Both old and youn can be dangerous and a menace on the road.
    My dad had a stroke, only had the use one arm and limited vision – and he took the wing mirror off his car getting it out of the garage. THANK GOD…he did not go out on the road!

    I think to experience really bad driving you need to come to Portugal. It terrified me so much I even wrote a post about it!

    Cheers
    PiP

    • I remember seeing some shocking driving in Greece when I was younger but at that age (12ish) I thought it was hilarious, almost cartoon like. My dad wasn’t very impressed as he had to avoid all the “maniacs” as he put it!

  3. Glad that the situations didn’t end up worse off! I totally agree too, I thought Indiana had crappy drivers obviously not.

    Our landlord is ancient, he drives this huge Cadillac of course. The other day my husband was coming from Wal-Mart the ancient bastard was driving down the middle of the road. He has no idea who we are when we call about issues with our apartment. He has even pocketed cash that tenants have sent him and not credited them. Some old people are cute and can function but most can’t and should be watched heavily!

    • The cute and funny ones are good fun, and there are plenty of old folks who are more than capable of doing everything younger people can, but those like your landlord are in need of a nice resting old folks home and a good seat at the staring window!

  4. More of the population is getting older so this problem is only going to get worse. When you combine old people with diminishing response times with the young texting and everyone else on cell phones, it is amazing we haven’t all just blown up in a fiery ball of mashed cars!

    My sister-in-law is struggling with her mom now. She refuses to give up her license, says she has no problems, and legally my sister-in-law has no right to take it away. She has cataracts in both eyes, severe arthritis that limits her ability to turn her head, not to mention that she’s had problems pressing her foot on the break hard enough to actually stop the car.

    Well said, great post.

    • Damn! Reminds me of our next door neighbour who was 78 and had arthritis so bad her hands were all weird and her fingers didn’t work properly, but she still drove, badly! I went in the car with her a few times, it was like riding a white knuckle roller coaster!

  5. Amen…you KNOW I agree with all of the above, I think EVERYONE should get retested every five years, they charge us $75 bucks for a new license every five years in Canada anyways, why not throw in a test?

  6. In Canada, after age 70, you have to re test for your license every five years. I think this cuts down a bit on what you’ve described. Scary stuff! Sometimes we forget that every time we are behind the wheel of a car, we are taking our life in our hands. it’s not about how good a driver YOU are but how many crazies are on the road at the same time as you.
    Having said that, i’m always surprised there aren’t more accidents than there actually are.
    drive safely.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised that some time soon we will see mandatory retesting every 5 or 10 years even if you passed your test at the earliest possible age. It makes good sense to keep roads as safe as possible.

  7. Pingback: Granny hits back « Granny1947's Blog

  8. as on Friday I was almost taken out, sitting waiting for the traffic to pass so I could exit the road where I live. and who was it? A youngish man (probably late 20’s screaming turn, for no reason than he wanted it, turning into my lane, and missing my car by centimeters. (it rosked from the movement)

    bad driving happens at any age. maybe you have no idea how competent people are at different ages, but i’ll pit most 60 year olds against that idiot!

  9. I am feeling a tad under fire here. I read Granny’s post:

    http://granny1947.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/granny-hits-back

    And felt I should add that testing should be made for everyone every 5 or 10 years, no matter how old the driver. I wasn’t too pleased to see a knee jerk reply from someone attacking my ability to overcome nerves for 19 years, what a stupid thing to say! I didn’t want to turn Granny’s blog into a battlefield of arguments so I thought it best to say my piece on my own blog.

    I wrote this post because I am a mature, well adjusted adult who yes, only passed my test a year ago, and I think that entitles me to make observations. I have not been in a situation where a younger driver has caused me alarm, yet older drivers have.

    When I say old, I’m not stating 60, which I agree with Granny, is not old. But it’s more to do with ability, some 80 year olds may very well be incredibly capable drivers, however their reactions times and physical ability to operate a car safely will be reduced compared to a younger driver, it’s a fact.

    Yes, I drove a car when I was younger, I had a Provisional licence and drove with my Dad in the car. I take offence that someone who possibly didn’t read my post would assume I’m stupid enough to drive illegally. It’s that kind of pathetic “here’s my 10 cents worth” reply that annoys people and doesn’t bring anything to the discussion. I live in the UK, a fact I have pointed out enough times on my blog. Here in the UK it is legal for a driver with a Provisional licence to drive a car so long as they are accompanied by someone who has held a full licence for 2 years.

    I find it funny that someone who has been driving for a long time will lash out at the mere mention they should be retested for their driving skills. If these people are that confident why don’t they take a voluntary test and see how they fare?

    They won’t do it though. Why should they? I didn’t want a silly discussion, honestly, I was just pointing out that recently I’ve seen a lot of bad drivers who happen to be quite old.

    Sorry folks, I thought I needed to make a statement here about this post. I meant no offence.

  10. Hi Noob,

    As we lose our teeth, hair, eyesight and hearing we get very tetchy about being called old. Just joking!

    Keep smiling and look out for us demon grannies behind the wheel 🙂

    Cheers 8)
    PiP

  11. I agree on the every five years. However, I also think it is relevant to everyone. Even though sixty is – nowadays – not yet that old every person have different challenges rising up at different ages. I’ve seen 50 year old people struggling with issues and behaving worse than some 70 year olds. One person’s body maybe start deteriorating around 50 and another is as fit as a fiddle till well after their 80’s. I’ve just met the first woman ever who is 103 years old and still living independently in her own home, does everything for herself – what if she was able to still drive till 90 or something? So let’s not disqualify merely on age – I agree. One question though: don’t you think that faster deterioration in older age is more likely than a younger person – isn’t that just force of nature? Isn’t 5 years a long time when you start getting to 60 and 70… I’m questioning the effectiveness of the 5 yr gap in terms of the age group that it is indicated seems to need this. Too frequent and not frequent enough can both lead to not resolving the problem necessarily.

    Even though I can well imagine the horror of loosing independence I can also very well understand the need for everyone’s safety – especially on a public road when you’re endangering many more besides yourself.

    Driving is unfortunately not merely based on your ability, but also your character -no matter your age – I don’t think there is a test that can help for that – unfortunately 😦 …

    Some good food for though.

    • Some excellent points, food for thought indeed, maybe I should do a post entitled “Young people – should THEY be allowed to drive?” As a counterbalance.

      • Young vs. old… just as you are old enough to be smart, you’re too old to be able (healthy)… tsk tsk 😦

        The young people – just maybe… maybe as you think on that you start seeing a few young fools giving you interesting blogging inspiration 😉 Once your eye catches something it seems to be everywhere haha

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