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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Elderly Weapons of Mass Destruction

Posted by on August 24 at 10:33 AM


Okay. For, like, the fifth time in twelve months, an elderly driver has “accidentally” plowed down numerous bystanders at a public market.

The latest incident comes from Rochester, NY, where yesterday an SUV driven by an 83-year-old man rammed through at least eight food stalls at the Rochester Public Market, injuring eight people, one of them seriously. (Full story here.)

As usual, the carnage was blamed on the accidental slip of the oldster’s foot from brake to acceleratoróbut do such accidents ever happen to anyone outside of the geriatric set?

Unlike Charles Mudede, I’m pro-old person. I’m fine with seeing them in pharmacies, I enjoy hearing their long rambling stories, and I wish them all the smoothest releases from this mortal coil when the time comes.

But how many innocent marketgoers must be crushed before states put tighter restrictions on septuagenarian-and-above drivers??

Independence for elders is important, but so is the ability to go to a farmer’s market without being run over. Elderly driver reform now!

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Old people kill more American citizens than al-Qaeda - each year.

It's time to declare a Super Red Alert With Cherries On Top over this threat to America!

Hide under your beds. And ignore the Bush operatives looting your assets and jewels - that's for your protection, citizen!

What with the power and $ of Big Wrinkle, that reform won't come soon.

i'm wondering how josh will relate this to israel.

And what is the correlation of these types of accidents always seeming to occur in the immediate vicinity of farmers markets? Is there something about being in proximity to locally grown organic vegetables, artisan cheeses and fresh-cut flowers that causes old peoples' feet to slip off the brake and onto the gas?

Somebody should put together a grant proposal for studying this.

This is a serious problem. Before my dad died (not from any auto-related cause) he got confused easily, and was once stopped by the cops for driving the wrong way down a busy one-way street. Luckily, no one was hurt. Yet the state of Iowa not only let him keep his license, they renewed it for another term!

When we tried to get him to give up his keys he kept saying that the state thought he was fine, so there was no reason to restrict him.

Old people, as long as they have it together, should be allowed to drive for as long as they want - but they need special assessments, and yearly renewal. This is just gonna get worse as the baby boomers get old.

Exactly what sort of reform are you proposing? It sounds as if you're suggesting laws for driver's testing that would prevent some people from driving. The presumption in such a position is that testing would have spotted common problems in the individuals and would have prevented these accidents from occurring. Without some proof, that position is specious, at best.

Be that as it may, such reforms won't happen for a number of reasons. For instance, older Americans are more likely to vote in elections, making politicians who call for such measures likely to be booted from office. Also, the baby boomers are just reaching the age of retirement and they aren't likely to want to give up the freedom to guzzle gas, especially while they are living longer.

Finally - it just isn't a practical application of law. Such parochialism might be fine for large cities with excellent public transportation, but that isn't fine for either cities with poor public transportation, smaller cities, or rural areas.

Catalina, the story of your dad is so sad and scary and understandable. I also think it suggests an answer to Comte's question: Why public markets? My guess is a lot of elderly drivers make a lot of mistakes--in their garages, down one-way streets, wherever--but only at crowded street fairs are the results newsworthy.

A couple of thoughts:
(1) I woner what reforms could actually work, without being discriminatory. (are you proposing making them take the road test again? They'll have died before they can get an appointment.) A written re test won't do much.

(2) B.D.-All excellent points. I can't believe with global warming, gas prices, this issue, etc., that we have not talked about public transportation. I think more elderly people would be willing to surrender their license if they has another way to get around. No one wants to just sit in the house all day, you might as well be dead already.

(3) The other day, I saw a man who was at least 80 yrs old driving with headphones on. Scared the shit out of me.

I'm fine with them driving, but they really need to get smaller cars. Take them out of the Caddy's and get them into Datsun 510s and Honda Civics. It won't improve their driving, but it would reduce the death toll.

Hm, perhaps gillsans is onto something here. For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, I challenge you to introduce the safety bumper guard (a wide oval at least 3 feet thick would suffice), an automatic kill switch to be activated in case the foot goes hard to the gas or is lifted from the gas pedal), automatic brakes that kick in when the kill switch does), and, for good environmental measure, auto diapers for oil leaks.

Up until the age of 75, old folks are much safer drivers on average. However, there's a turning point at 75 where some older drivers start getting confused easily. Requiring a driver's test when the elderly reach 75 doesn't seem unreasonable to me. Despite the recent incidents of people getting mowed down, when elderly drivers get into an accident, they're the ones most likely to suffer. They get injured more easily, their injuries are more debilitating, and takes much longer for them to recover, assuming they ever do.

The South Park episode about this was on last night...did that inform your post at all, David Schmader?

I'm pro old-person as well as pro regular-driving-test-checks. Pretty much for all ages: If you know you don't have to take the test again, it's easy to get cocky and start breaking all the rules. It would be a fucking pain in the ass for drivers, but good for pedestrians to have regular driving ability check-ups.

I loved that episode - when I saw it was on, I had to watch it again. Old people paratrooping in and all.

Interesting point about testing, DavidA. Why not make it a video game we can play?

Hey there, Davida, nope, I haven't seen the South Park, but I'll look for it on YouTube...

Ah, yes. Pedal Error.

I remember well the day a little old lady drove her car through the wall of my West Seattle apartment building. And I remember the second little old lady who did exactly the same thing a year later.

Neither incident made the news.

I've found that the younger you are, and the less time you spend around older people, the more likely you are to favor laws restricting the elderly's access to motor vehicles. When you've still got those sprightly young legs, it can be difficult to believe that for a lot of old folks, walking a block and a half to the bus stop is too physically demanding, let alone riding a bicycle or walking 3/4 mile to the nearest subway/light-rail/supersonic-laser-maglev-monorail station.

Access to a car, in our present culture, is often the difference between living independently and moving into a nursing home, and there are quite a few people who would prefer to quietly die rather than live in one of those places.

I'll agree that it would be nice not to have these tragic accidents in the news, but it looks to me like part of the price we're paying for the way that we, as a society, have decided to treat our elders.

I'm still laughing about "Big Wrinkle." Brilliant.

RE: I'm still laughing about "Big Wrinkle." Brilliant.

Yeah, that's real clever. I wish our society were nearly as clever about taking care of all our citizens. Instead we get these stereotypical put-downs of our elders; and we get "No child left behind" for our children.
Let's not forget to ridicule the 25% of Americans guilty of living in poverty while we're at fellas.

Laugh on. You're next.

Personally, I would be happy to turn in my license at 65 IF I had a two bedroom apartment for a REASONABLE rent that was within a few blocks of everything and was NOT in a senior-citizen-only building. Cars are a drain on resources and a pain in the ass - but you pretty much have to have one if you live in certain neighborhoods.

Unfortunately you live in a society where not being able to drive is pretty much the same as being dead, so no ones going to give it up willingly.

The other terrible consequence of old folks crashing into Farmers Markets regularly, is the increase in liability insurance for Farmers Markets.
Struggling on the edge Family Farmers and Farmers Markets are getting screwed by the insurance monopoly over geriatric genocide aimed at Farmers Markets.
The insurance industry is using these instances to raise premiums charged to the burgeoning Farmers Market movement for General Liability insurance.
Some markets have had to close, unable to afford the astronomically rising premiums.
This leaves struggling small family farms with no outlet for local retail.
It's a huge problem.
What do these elderly Kamikazes have against Farmers Markets?
What kind of conspiracy is this?
Have they eaten so much Mad Cow laden beef, that they have become programmed by the massive Corporate Meat industry to take out the competition?

Wow, John; way to overreact. It was just a joke someone else made, and not even at the expense of Older Americans.

Myself, I'll consider myself lucky if cars still exist (or are owned by anyone but the super-wealthy, or the residents of Thunderdome) by the time I'm old enough not to be driving them.

This article:


"For drivers 65 and older, the crash rate per mile driven begins to increase slowly. For drivers 85 and over, NHTSA statistics show that the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled begins to zoom upward to a rate 9 times as high as the rate for drivers between from age 25 through 69. As with the 16-year-olds, men 85 and older have worse rates than women."

It also says:
"It goes to a classic teaching of gerontology," Dr. Duthie says. "Biology and chronology are not necessarily predictors of one another, and safe driving is more a matter of functional ability than age."

In other words, sweeping solutions are unscientific and unfair.

So you're saying legislation by anecdote is a bad idea, then?

Old people are walking coffins. The Young, affluent, and educated will save our world from global warming. Most old people are Red State republicans.

Hardly anyone else in Seattle knows how to drive, either; re-test everyone every 5 years. One of few regulations with real benefit.

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