Geezers: A driving force in highway hazards

By Joe Klock, Sr.
Posted 6/17/99

At 72-plus years of age, I'm not the oldest humanoid on the planet, but having lived through nearly a third of our nation's history, I feel entitled to wag a finger at my fellow superannuates and …

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Geezers: A driving force in highway hazards


At 72-plus years of age, I'm not the oldest humanoid on the planet, but having lived through nearly a third of our nation's history, I feel entitled to wag a finger at my fellow superannuates and their questionable taste in whines (not a misprint!).

It's time we as a group stopped confusing deference to our special needs with exemption from common law, common sense and common decency. Time we modified our view of the perks to which we are entitled simply because we have become long in the tooth - perks that we often enjoy at the expense of the public in general and younger people in particular.

There is, for example, the matter of driving - a license that some of us seem to feel is a lifelong right. In my home state of Florida, a favored habitat of the ancient, a recent at-tempt was made in the legislature to require that drivers over the age of 75 be asked to pass vision and hearing tests every three years in order to renew their licenses to drive.

The powerful AARP raised an-guished howls of "Discrimination!" and came up with the remarkable, albeit ridiculous, statement that "there's no research to support that at this chronological date (age 75) you begin to lose driving skills."

No "scientific" research, perhaps, but ample evidence is rolling on every highway and byway in the land - not to mention everywhere else where air is breathed - that people in the third third of their earthly sojourn just ain't as well equipped physically as in their salad days. We don't see as well, hear as well and react as quickly, along with other handicaps that need not (will not, anyway) be cited in this opusette.

Having said that, let's plead for agreement that many 70-plusers are fully capable of driving anywhere in the Rand-McNally charts.

Certainly, no one should be denied a license to drive based solely on longevity, provided they can see enough (day and night), hear enough and react quickly enough to defend themselves against the hazards of highway travel and avoid becoming hazards themselves. This last crite-rion implies the ability to exceed 40 mph in 65 mph stretches of freeway and a willingness to make at least occasional use of the right-hand lane.

It would seem to be a reasonable expectation that if a vehicle comes even close to the exciting potential described in its TV ads, the person in control of it should be equipped to anticipate dangers and avoid convert-ing that powerful missile into a shredded heap of refuse.

With respect to the hearing crite-rion, it is only fair to cite the self-imposed handicap of those mindless yahoos effectively deafened by mega-decibeled boom boxes, which should be just as illegal as driving blind-folded!

In days of yore, getting from “hyar to thar” was easier for the old-and-gray. When all personkind traveled either on foot or with the aid of flesh-and-blood horse power, the elderly could manage by merely walking slower or literally relying on horse sense to avoid danger. To-day, though, the blazing speed and awesome power of modern automo-biles, coupled with the aggressive, adventurous (read reckless) behavior of many drivers in all age brackets, have made the roadways only slightly safer than bullrings. This is hardly an appropriate environment for any but the best qualified among us erect anthropoids.

So what's the big deal, fellow old-sters? Would you rather kill or be killed than face the facts of creeping obsolescence? Aren't your children and grandchildren entitled to some protection against incapable motor-ists?

Why is driving while intoxicated not OK when driving while impaired is a protected right of the for-sure mature?

Under current Florida law, and probably elsewhere, 75-year-olds-and-olders can renew their drivers licenses by mail for as many as 18 years without being examined for sight, vision or competence.

During the Florida Legislature hearing, one sponsoring lawmaker testified that his 92-year-old mother voluntarily turned in her license, but received an application for renewal anyway.

In fact, If they choose to apply, even the blind can renew their li-censes, as well as the gray-headed accidents-on-the-way-to-happen.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian is widely criti-cized for helping people to die, while motor vehicle bureaus engage in a watered-down version of the same activity, exacerbated by an accompa-nying right-to-kill. Admittedly, that analogy is a reach, but the underly-ing principle is pertinent.

Rather than whining about dis-crimination against the elderly, we geezers should be in the forefront of those demanding that there should be a major recall of an automobile component potentially more danger-ous than any other - defective body parts behind the wheel!

Joe Klock, Sr. is a freelance writer in Key Largo, Florida. E-mail him: or call (305) 451-0079. More of his material may be accessed at