Should There Be Mandatory Driver’s License Testing?
There is a question I find myself considering almost every time I drive down the road and see someone do something incredibly stupid that either causes an accident or almost causes one, or every time I get stuck behind a driver doing 15 mph in a 45 mph zone, or every time I watch the news and see some bizarre accident and notice that seven out of ten times the driver is an elderly person. That question is: should there be mandatory driver’s license testing for a drivers license once a person reaches a certain age?
On the way home from work today, James and I stopped at a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market to pick up a few items. Getting out of the car and walking towards the store, we noticed the aftermath of a bizarre accident! This particular Wal-Mart Neighborhood Grocery has a covered walk way stretching across the length of the front of the store. It is part of the actual building, constructed of brick with large plate-glass windows every few feet. It is where the vending machines and propane tank exchange shelves are kept.
About an hour before we had arrived, an elderly gentleman had driven into the wall of this covered walkway crashing through one of the windows and narrowly missing the racks of propane tanks. It is nothing short of a miracle that nobody happened to be walking out of the store and through the walkway at that particular moment, or that nobody was walking across the driveway from the parking lot to go in the store on what was a beautiful Sunday afternoon! It is amazing that the car came to a stop not two feet before crashing into the racks filled with dozens of full propane gas tanks! Thankfully nobody, the driver included, was injured. The elderly driver had said he did not realize how quickly his car would accelerate.
Although no people were hurt, I cannot say the same for the front of the store where an entire section was demolished leaving bricks, shards of glass and dust everywhere! The front end of the man’s car was not in very good shape either. I have to wonder what was going through that man’s mind. Did he floor the accelerator and not realize how hard he was pressing? Or did he mistake the accelerator for the brake pedal? Whatever it was, this accident serves to increase the strength of my growing belief that once you reach a certain age, 70? 75?, you should be required to re-take the test for your drivers license, possibly even once a year. Maybe this way, we can help prevent accidents like this one from occurring.
Many of you know my father recently passed. He was in his late 70’s, and for the last five or six years of his life, many of his friends and family refused to ride with him because it was such a scary experience. He had always had a heavy foot and a defensive attitude when it came to driving, but it seemed like the older he got, the more scary he was to ride around with. Not only would he drive fast, but it would take your breath away when he would come to a stop at a red light an inch behind the car in front, saying he had plenty of room. He would switch lanes on the interstate like he was in some kind of video game, and he honestly could not understand why we were refusing to ride with him.
About three years ago he passed out behind the wheel, thankfully he was still in the parking lot of his friends restaurant. We later discovered it had been a stroke, but after his stay in the hospital we learned that he would have to have a doctor examine him and give their okay before he would be allowed to drive again. Apparently this is mandatory for stroke victims. Though he didn’t see it, we all were well aware this was a blessing in disguise. It turned out he never had that exam as his health quickly began to fail from that point on. Point being, had he not had that stroke, how long would he have been driving around before getting confused and driving into a building or another car, or something worse?
Going through his stuff I recently found a note he had written on the back of a piece of paper from around the time he learned he could not drive until he had a doctor’s okay. He had written “Have to ask for a ride to work?! What a crappy life!” I can see how giving up the life-long freedom of driving yourself where ever you want to go, whenever you want would be depressing, and could make you feel helpless or hopeless. I could see how it could cause problems if you are still working or if you have set appointments you need to get to and you don’t want to have to depend on someone else to get you there. I can understand how it would not be so great to have to rely on someone else to take you places. But really, is all of that really worth the loss of someone else’s life or possibly your own?
After reading several comments, I realized that I should have added something concerning the younger people who are out driving around like maniacs. Then there are those who think they are invincible and drive around drunk or high. They too, along with new drivers, middle-aged drivers, and all drivers…some just do not need to be behind the wheel. I also should mention that plenty of my father’s friends realize they should not be driving anymore due to certain limitations, so they don’t. And still others are just fine to be driving, still as attentive and careful as they were when they began driving 60 years ago. Point being, I do realize it is just not elderly people causing accidents and making careless mistakes.
What are your thoughts on mandatory re-testing for a drivers license once people reach a certain age?