July 17, 2006


A Crash Course for the Elderly (ANDREW L. HAAS, NY Times)

Doctors are required to take continuing medical education courses each year in order to retain our licenses and hospital privileges. We must also take our board specialty examinations every 10 years to maintain our specialty certifications. We do this in order to reduce the risk to patients of injury or death caused by medical errors.

Yet there are few such precautions taken to reduce injury and death on American roads. Someone can get behind the wheel of a potentially lethal automobile without having had his basic competence tested in decades. Most drivers receive their last exposure to driver education and testing in their mid-teens.

This makes no sense. Given their great, and frequently proven, capacity to do harm, drivers should be required to take a continuing driver education course every 10 years.

Special emphasis should be placed on elderly drivers. Motor-vehicle injuries are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among 65- to 74-year-olds and are the second leading cause, after falls, among 75- to 84-year-olds. Older drivers have a higher fatality rate per mile driven than any age group except drivers under 25. The American Medical Association estimates that as the population of the United States ages, drivers aged 65 and older will eventually account for 25 percent of all fatal crashes.

Accordingly, it makes sense to recertify drivers at age 65 and require subsequent recertification, based on road testing, every five years thereafter.

You shouldn't be allowed to drive until 21 either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 17, 2006 9:35 AM

Try driving in Niles IL wher the average age seems to be about 85. Luckily you can see the oldsters coming as they all drive boxy big old GM cars. At least they drive reeeeaallll slow.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at July 17, 2006 10:20 AM

Why not just require everyone to take continuing drivers ed and recertify every five years?

Posted by: David Rothman at July 17, 2006 11:15 AM

Only if there's a waver for those serving in the Military. If we trust them with nukes, we can trust them with cars.....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at July 17, 2006 11:21 AM

Because that's not how profiling works.

Posted by: oj at July 17, 2006 11:21 AM

People who live in rural areas should not be allowed to drive in urban areas. In cities just ban all drivers and vehichles licensed in states without any real cities, like New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Wyoming, and right there you will have improved things.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 17, 2006 12:18 PM

Why would you ever go to a city?

Posted by: oj at July 17, 2006 12:28 PM

Why would you ever go to a city?

It's where they keep the baseball stadiums, of course.

Posted by: Mike Morley at July 17, 2006 12:32 PM

Wouldn't Orrin just take the train anyway?

Posted by: TimF at July 17, 2006 12:38 PM

Baseball was meant to be listened to on the radio.

Posted by: oj at July 17, 2006 12:39 PM

oj's got a point, plus minor league baseball in the sticks is much preferable to big city mlb.

Best of both worlds -- head to the local minor league park, and while there listen to the big league game in the radio.

Bonus points if you can keep score for both games.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at July 17, 2006 12:47 PM

Anybody who does not drive every day should also have their license revoked. Train commuters, bus riders and urban cliff dwellers do not have the skills to drive a car.

Posted by: andy at July 17, 2006 1:20 PM

You never see bad drivers not driving.

Posted by: oj at July 17, 2006 2:10 PM

I have a relative in her 80s who just recently had her right leg amputated, her car outfitted to drive with her left foot, then crashed through a fence on to a school field (nobody hurt).

The fact that they even allow elderly to get these foot-switch contraptions is outrageous. To re-learn a skill like driving with the wrong foot at that age is begging for deaths.

Posted by: Matt Cohen at July 17, 2006 2:38 PM

"Why would you ever go to a city?"

I stand corrected. Any urban or suburban area, not "city". Why? Because perhaps I live in this area, and can't afford a country estate to which I'm chauffeured on the weekends.

"You never see bad drivers not driving."

That's because bad drivers leave a wake of accidents and near misses behind them. (Your statement parses ambiguously. I don't see bad drivers in my living room, either...)

"Train commuters, bus riders and urban cliff dwellers do not have the skills to drive a car."

Bike riders. Don't forget bike riders.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 17, 2006 2:48 PM

Home prices are uniformly lower in rural areas.

Posted by: oj at July 17, 2006 2:51 PM

I think riding my bike makes me a better car driver, certainly more careful of pedestrians and defensive against other careless drivers.

From both the steering wheel and the handlebars, I find that grandpas and grandmas aren't so much dangerous (well, not usually) as irritatingly cautious and slow. This of course can be hazardous, but not as hazardous as the truly mindless behaviour you see on the road. The worst drivers in my experience are young women and yuppie guys on cellphones, and hockey-haired zooba-wearing roadrage cases whose cars need some muffler work.

Posted by: ted welter at July 17, 2006 4:20 PM

Any rules you guys want to make to get as many of you as possible off my roads is fine with me.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 17, 2006 5:59 PM