Green Means Go

October 7, 2008
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The world is facing a growing and catastrophic crisis. No one seems to know how to handle this dilemma. With the casualties growing as the predators increase in number, it’s absolutely necessary that lawmakers and law enforcement officials quickly resolve this enormous issue. Yet their lack of action leaves the general public wondering: when is somebody going to do something? Raging wildfires that set fire to thousands of precious trees, hoards of hungry locusts that won’t stop until they’ve destroyed every crop, deadly diseases that pick off unsuspecting prey one by one: dangerous elderly drivers need to be stopped now.
Seventeen year old Katie Bolka, a junior at Ursuline Academy in Dallas, was on her way to school in May 2006 when a 90-year-old woman didn’t see a red light and slammed into Katie’s car. Katie suffered from extensive injuries before she died five days later. 17 years old—that could have been you. In a similar situation in 2003, 86-year-old George Russell Weller from California mowed through the middle of a street in a crowded farmer’s market, not even hesitating to brake as more than 75 people went flying over his windshield. The result was 10 fatalities and 70 injuries.
Had these two elderly people been required to take precautionary vision and driving tests when they reached a certain age, Katie and the victims in California might still be alive. But at the time, there were no such laws or regulations. Katie’s death did inspire a new Texas mandate requiring drivers 79 and older to submit to a mandatory vision test. It also calls for all drivers 85 and older to renew their licenses every two years, rather than every six. While Katie’s Law made the first step towards controlling the elderly drivers’ problem in Texas, it only applies to drivers 79 and older. And though drivers aged 85 and older have crash rates nine times higher than drivers aged 25 to 69, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says that age 65 is when crash rates per mile first begin to increase, leaving a 14 year gap. This means that potentially dangerous drivers can keep their license simply by mailing in some forms, regardless of whether or not their age and health affects their safety on the road, and many unfit elderly drivers still fly down residential streets, through school zones, and on highways, portable landmines just waiting for their next target.
The rational solution is to remove the landmines from the roads. It may seem unfair to steal away the one piece of freedom left in seniors’ lives, but we can’t ignore the fact that older drivers are causing accidents. Why are they so dangerous? Many have vision problems and cognitive disorders that make it difficult to concentrate and react quickly—necessary qualities for a safe driver. This blatant risk counteracts the argument that with depression rates are up to almost 20 percent of Americans 65 and older, the government shouldn’t take away their licenses. Yet a license is a privilege, a green card that only stays green if the license bearer can uphold their end of the bargaining by driving safely. That card turns red every time Alzheimer’s disease, a mobility issue, or impaired eyesight interferes with the security of everyone else on the roads.
I’m not proposing that all old people should be banned from driving. Nor am I proposing that everyone over a certain age isn’t capable of safely maneuvering a vehicle. I am suggesting, however, that when licensed drivers reach the age of 65, they should be obliged to pass mandatory vision and driving tests. As new drivers, we have enough of our own problems to worry about. We shouldn’t have to deal with the added stress that comes from old people with bad vision running red lights. So together, we can fight this problem. We can cooperate to make a difference. We can improve the safety of the roads. Can we save the world in a day like Clark Kent? No, but we can certainly take action. Write a letter to your legislators asking them to pass stricter laws. Start a petition with some friends voting to get these laws passed. Don’t let a family member continue driving if you’re uncomfortable or fearful of their driving abilities. These people are our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends, but they’re also the people behind the wheel of a car swerving into other lanes and going the wrong way on one-way streets. There comes a time when they need to hang up their keys for good.

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Bgeek24 said...
Jul. 15, 2011 at 5:56 pm
I agree completly with your opinion. There comes a time when people get to old to be driving. Their vision fades and their reflexes slow, and they cause a  major problem on the roads. Great job on adding examples of things that have really happened because of this. 5/5
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