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Elderly Drivers Unsafe? Bah humbug!!

As I write this, news that an elderly driver (79) has just plowed into a cop who was working detail for a utility crew in Weymouth, Massachusetts.

By the time the 4 o’clock news teams hit the airwaves, we’ll be told how another elderly driver has done it again – caused an accident to add to the long list that we seem to be hearing about daily.

Within the space of four weeks, there was a rash of serious, sometimes deadly accidents involving elderly drivers in Massachusetts.

An 89-year-old woman allegedly hit and killed a 4-year-old girl in a crosswalk. An 84-year-old woman died when her 83-year-old husband crashed into another car. One elderly woman died after her 92-year-old husband slammed into her while backing out of a parking spot.

A 73-year-old accidentally drove her minivan into a crowd of people attending a Memorial; eight people were hospitalized. A 93-year-old driver hurt a mother and toddler when he stepped on the gas instead of the brake and drove his car into a Wal-Mart.

And as we are won’t to do – the knee-jerk reaction is: Elderly Drivers must be driven off the roads. The MA legislature is considering several options that could reduce the accident risks of elderly drivers due to poor eyesight or slower reflexes. Elderly drivers would have to submit to more frequent, in-person license renewals, vision tests and driving tests.

The Boston Globe cites the following statistics relating to elderly driers and accidents:

• In 2008, Massachusetts drivers age 75 or older made up more than 7 percent of those holding licenses and accounted for nearly 4-percent of all crashes.

• Drivers age 75 or older were involved in about 7,000 crashes out of more than 200,000. (NO data to show how many elderly drivers caused crashes.)

• In the past four years, the percentage of crashes involving elderly drivers has remained consistent at about 3.5 percent of all auto accidents in Massachusetts.

• The percentage of elderly drivers killed in crashes, though slightly higher, remains relatively small, averaging about 38 deaths a year.

• In 2008, nearly 8 percent of the 451 fatal crashes in the state involved a driver age 75 or older.

The US Government Accountability Office says the crash rate for elderly drivers is lower than the rates for younger drivers partly because seniors drive fewer miles per year than younger drivers.

According to the Globe, based on licensed-driver rates: “drivers in the 30- to 59-year-old category are much more likely to kill other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists than elderly drivers.’’

I agree! I walk about four-miles around Boston every day and run into many young drivers who need similar restrictions.

What about drivers who: DO NOT YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS ON THE CROSSWALK, even when the walk sign is on!

How about those drivers?

-Signal says “Walk” and driver cuts across pedestrians, blocks the crosswalk and strands pedestrians in the middle of the street…by the time driver moves and pedestrians can continue traffic is already speeding towards them from the opposite direction?

-How about those cyclists who insist on biking on the sidewalk, even though the law clearly states that cyclists should bike on the sidewalk only in a business district? Cyclists who suddenly and silently come up from behind and pass to your left or right, without warning…so that if the pedestrian had just stepped to that side, the cyclist would have crashed into that unsuspecting walker?

-Cyclists who think that traffic signs/lights are not for them – that they are pedestrians, so when vehicles are stopped on the red light, they should fly past, even if people and vehicles are coming from the other direction?

-How about those cyclists who challenge pedestrians on the sidewalk and come speeding towards you, forcing pedestrians to jump out of their way? Well, I’m the one who doesn’t move. You go around, if you can! OTHERWISE WE’RE BOTH CRASHING TO THE GROUND!

Am I the only person who sees this…or cares?

Do we wait for the knee-jerk first? Do we wait for a cyclist to crash into a pregnant woman or a baby carriage for there to be a crack down?

Is that how we roll? The accident must happen first, BEFORE WE ADDRESS THE POTENTIAL CAUSE

So who’s making the roads unsafe…elderly drivers?! Bah humbug!

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