Dear Annie: I want to thank you for printing the essay “Dead at Seven,” by Paul O. Ketro, M.D., about the dangers posed by senior drivers who don’t know when to give up their licenses.
For more than a year, I have been trying to tell my mother that it isn’t safe for her to drive any longer, and for the most part, I’ve kept her out of the car. She often states that she is going to drive herself, but when she read that essay, she said to me, “I guess I’m not going to drive my car anymore.”
You two are a blessing, and I’m convinced you’ve saved a life.
Dear S.: Thank you, but not everyone thinks we’re such a blessing. Many older drivers were upset about this essay, claiming young drivers cause more accidents. True. But young drivers generally improve their driving skills over time, whereas older drivers can develop problems with reflexes, cognition and vision. While most senior drivers tend to be more cautious because of this, some refuse to recognize or deal with incipient problems. And regular testing to renew one’s license varies from state to state. The point of the essay is to help drivers over 65 be more aware of changes in their driving skills and be willing to address them.
Read on for more:
From Salem, Mass.: Capability, not age, should be the topic. I am 93, in good health with fast responses, and I’m a defensive driver. I drive below the speed limit in the right lane, away from the lane-changers and speeders. I also drive with my right foot on the accelerator and my left foot on the brake to eliminate hitting the gas by mistake and plowing into people or buildings.
Florida: What I got out of “Dead at Seven” is that parents should teach their kids not to run into the street after a ball or anything else, that kids should be taught to stop on the curb and look both ways to see whether it is safe to cross or go into the street after a ball.
Maryland: I have to take issue with the good doctor describing senior drivers as a “growing danger” on the road. That’s pure emotional hogwash. As a senior driver, I am far more careful than I was 60 years ago. I am far wiser, as well, and more aware of every danger on the street. Yes, my reaction time may be a bit diminished, but that’s why I no longer use the fast lanes. If a child were to run into the street, he and his parents had better hope and pray that the car that hits him belongs to a watchful, slower-moving senior and not to my 30-year old son who can’t take his foot off the gas.
Iowa: That article got me thinking about one of the golfers in my league who is nearly blind. We have to watch where he hits the ball. After leaving the course, we saw him doing 45 when the speed limit was 70. When he went to renew his license, he flunked the vision test and then told us that he was thinking of driving without a license. In my state, one must take a driver’s test every two years after the age of 70. I am now 78 and spend six months a year in Florida where drivers only need to renew every six years. Some older people don’t realize they have a problem.
Florida: I am fuming about this essay. He did not mention the thousands who are killed by pot-smoking, texting, daydreaming and drunk adults of all ages. I am 90 years old and have been driving for 65 years. Take my driving away from me, and they may as well wrap me up completely. I will know when I am endangering myself and others.
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