Friday, December 26, 2008

Elderly driver ruins Chabad Chanukah party

It happened again.

The headline stays the same. Only the details change.

Yet another elderly driver confuses the brake pedal with the accelerator and plows into a crowd of people. This time, it's a Chanukah party with many young children in attendance. Yet another elderly driver who has no business possessing keys, a license or vehicle severely injures or kills innocent bystanders. The reaction is always the same: first he blames the vehicle. A maintenance check reveals no malfunction. Then his attorney says he's heartbroken over the incident. If we're lucky, his home state mandates a driving test for him, which he fails, and the state revokes his license. But there are no criminal consequences for his actions of vehicular homicide or injury.

The youngest victim was 18 months old.

The vehicle entered the store's front and reached the back of the store. Good Lord--how fast was he going? I guess when a driver is trying to hit the brakes and he's flooring the accelerator instead, the vehicle will approach its maximum speed. That sounds sarcastic. It's not funny.

We spend so much time and energy limiting young drivers' ability to drive legally. We haphazardly install stop signs to ban driving the speed limit on major thoroughfares. But we won't address the serious and growing problem of elderly drivers who are no longer capable of driving a motor vehicle.

In Illinois, elderly drivers enjoy the courtesy of cutting to the front of the line at the Secretary of State's driver testing facilities, and their licenses are practically free. They do not undergo annual mandatory testing until 87 years old. Given the evidence of how elderly drivers' judgment is often impaired much earlier than that, it would seem that lowering the mandatory annual testing to 70 or 75 years old makes sense.

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