A few minutes ago, I and three other people almost got sideswiped by a very elderly woman behind the wheel of a gray Cadillac. And it wasn’t because we were all in the same car or even in the same lane. No, this woman weaved into my lane, forcing me to slam on my brakes, then weaved into the right lane then back into mine, forcing four separate vehicles to slam on their brakes and employ evasive maneuvers. And she never even acknowledged us or that she had done something wrong.
I am extremely critical of elderly people driving and firmly believe in five-year driving tests for people over the age of 60 (Hell, I’m in favor of five-year driving tests for everybody. Over 32,000 vehicle-related deaths a year are way, way too many.). I’m even more critical of elderly people than I am of new drivers because new drivers don’t know better but are in fact capable of recognizing their mistakes and correcting them (They have to if they want to keep their license.). Elderly people don’t even notice they’re swerving all over the place. They don’t reason that they shouldn’t be driving with cataracts or palsy. They are insulted that you would ask them to think of other drivers first. They are a terrible, terrible hazard.
What makes it worse is that so many elderly people are proud of their terrible, dangerous driving. My girlfriend works with elderly patients and tells me horrifying stories such as the one woman who realized she was going the wrong way on an interstate and so promptly pulled a U-turn, roared over the grassy medium, and screeched into the other side of traffic. She didn’t look to see if she’d caused any injuries and didn’t see anything wrong with her actions. On the contrary, she thought it was a funny story that she told several people. Or what about my sister’s friend who had half of her house demolished when an elderly woman plowed right into their living room, forcing it into the kitchen, killing her iguana, and injuring her cats and boyfriends? That woman had no idea what had happened and remained sitting in her car trying to maneuver it until the paramedics forcibly removed her.
I want to be understanding because I also work with elderly people and I see how limited their lives get when they no longer have a vehicle. They feel powerless and retreat in on themselves, often refusing to use other services. I know that if I ever had my car involuntarily taken from me, I’d be upset. But I also hope that if I ever became legally blind or mentally incompetent, I’d take a taxi over potentially killing someone. Sometimes, you have to give up privileges when you can’t be responsible.
Until then, keep a look out for older but well-maintained luxury cars, guys – that’s usually the vehicle of choice for elderly people. And keep your eyes on your mirrors and your foot over the brakes. Evidently, it’s everyone else’s responsibility to look out for poor drivers.