Shrek and I were on our way home from grabbing bagels and Starbucks Saturday morning when we pulled up behind an older model white Nissan Maxima stopped at a red light in the left turn lane. The arrow promptly turned green indicating we could go, only the car in front of us didn’t move. After a few moments passed, Shrek gave the politest “meep meep” on the horn possible. The driver, a little old lady, looked back at us in her mirror and… rolled up her windows.
Shrek leaned on the horn again and gestured to the green arrow which is now yellow and soon red. Other cars take their turn to go. Eventually, our arrow turns green for the second time but, again, the car in front of us doesn’t move. WhatThe–? Is she stroking out up there? Why isn’t she moving?!
This time Shrek is a little more insistent with the horn while gesturing to the green light. “Go, bitch!” and so on as we end up sitting through ANOTHER green light. Finally, during the third green light as Shrek gets his chance to go around, the car in front of us creeps forward and turns as the light turns yellow. Of course we’re in the middle of the intersection as the light turns red because she is creeping at 5 mph. Seriously?! Down a 25 mph street, she goes maybe 10 mph tops and decides to make a full stop at a BLINKING YELLOW light. Fortunately, we avoided crashing into her since we were anticipating this unnecessary stop. (We actually had a bet going, would she freak out and and not know what to do at a blinking yellow light? Yup.)
I realize this incident is incredibly minor compared to the more tragic outcomes related to age and driving. Remember the Santa Monica farmer’s market incident back in 2006?
On the afternoon of July 16, 2003, Weller, then age 86, drove his car westbound down Arizona Avenue in Santa Monica toward the city’s popular Third Street Promenade. The last few blocks of the street, before it ends at the ocean, had been closed to vehicle traffic for the biweekly farmers’ market.
Weller’s car struck another car, then accelerated around a road closure sign, crashed through wooden sawhorses, and plowed into the busy marketplace crowd, traveling nearly 1,000 feet (300 m) at speeds between 40 and 60 mph (60 and 100 km/h). The entire sequence of collisions took at least 10 seconds.
By the time the car came to a halt, ten people had been killed and 63 were injured. Weller told investigators he had accidentally placed his foot on the accelerator pedal instead of the brake, then tried to brake but could not stop.
This event, along with witnessing the aftermath of a car literally crashing into a supermarket a few years ago (again, an elderly driver hit the accelerator instead of the brake), and my more recent experience on Saturday, got me wondering why there isn’t a law requiring (all) drivers to get retested, and more frequently as they get older.
I understand that some may view it as a form of age-discrimination, but then why not grant a 15 year old a valid drivers license if they can pass the driving test and show complete competency behind the wheel? (I will stick to rules of the road and not go into why 21 is a ridiculous legal drinking age, especially considering the fact we can enlist to fight and die for our country at age 18.) I bet there are quite a few ‘underage’ drivers out there who are infinitely more responsible in the driver’s seat than many valid 16, 25, and 45 (etcetera, etcetera) year old drivers I’ve encountered on the road. And, here’s a fact: EVERYONE ages. If they’re fortunate enough, they live to be very old. (Well, ‘fortunate’ depending on your perspective.) Yes, some do it while maintaining better control of their motor skills than others which makes it tough to put an age on retesting more frequently, but if we can determine 16 is the appropriate age to apply to drive on the road legally and start retesting everyone — trust me, I’ve definitely encountered drivers out there well below what I consider “elderly” who should be retested and have their licenses revoked — then I ask why not require retesting more frequently as you get older? Roads would be safer and it would create some much-needed jobs! At least, in theory… Thoughts?