Dear Annie: You often print the essay “Dead at Seventeen” by John Berrio, about the dangers of reckless teen driving.
I’ve written a version of it that addresses the growing danger posed by older drivers who should no longer be driving. For political reasons, I suspect the chance of any meaningful legislation being passed is slim. The only hope is for people to read this and realize that, yes, unfortunately, it applies to them. An unsafe driver is a danger to everyone on the road, the sidewalk or in a restaurant. A few years ago, a senior driver plowed into a crowd at a farmers’ market, killing 10 and injuring 70.
When I took Drivers’ Ed as a teenager, they gave us a copy of “Dead at Seventeen” at the end of the course. Perhaps the AARP could hand out this essay at their Driver Safety courses or adult children can give this to their parents.
-- Paul O. Ketro, M.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston
“Killed at Seven”
I am in agony. He is a statistic. He is one of many, many others whose bodies are as badly mangled as his — their category is called “Killed by Senior Drivers.”
The day I killed him was an ordinary day. How I wish that I had taken the bus. But I was too good for the bus. I remember how I ignored my adult children, who begged me not to drive anymore. I said, “All of my friends drive. I want my independence. I want to be my own boss.”
I don’t remember how the accident happened. The last thing I recall was that a younger adult passed me — he seemed to be going so fast. I guess I was just kidding myself by thinking that if I only drove slowly and on familiar streets, I could still drive safely.
Later on, I found out that a child had run out ahead of my car chasing a ball. I didn’t really see him. My vision isn’t that great anymore — but I can renew my driver’s license by mail, so my vision doesn’t get checked very often. I felt a bump on the car, and I heard a scream. Then the boy hit my windshield, and I finally noticed him. Glass flew everywhere.
Suddenly it was very quiet. The boy was lying on the road, his body mangled. Pieces of jagged glass were sticking out all over. Then there were sirens. The ambulance arrived, and they pulled a sheet over the boy’s head.
Hey! Don’t pull that sheet over his head! He’s only 7! He has a ball game this afternoon. He was supposed to have a wonderful life ahead of him. He hasn’t lived yet. He can’t be dead.
His mother was there. She was heartbroken. His father came out, too — they’re my neighbors. He suddenly looked very old. I told the police officer that the gas pedal had gotten stuck — because that’s what older drivers often say when they hit someone.
It’s a small town, and everyone is in a daze. People see me and look away. No one can believe it. I can’t believe it, either. I’ve read about older drivers who plow into crowds, but I never thought it would be me.
Please, somebody — wake him up! I can’t bear to see his mom and dad in such pain.
Please don’t bury him! He’s not dead! He has a lot of living to do! He wants to laugh and run again. Please don’t put him in the ground. I promise if you give me just one more chance, God, I won’t drive again. All I want is one more chance. Please, God, he was only 7.
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