I see that the legislature is beginning to consider new screenings for senior drivers, which are common in other states.
As someone who is getting “up there” in years, I wholeheartedly support this measure.
My sister’s mother-in-law drove a little longer than she was competent to, and wound up with her Mercedes lodged half-way through the back wall of her garage. She had to sit there, perched precariously over a canyon, until someone rescued her three hours later. No cell phones in those days.
There are worse things than losing one’s driving privileges before you have a chance to die at the wheel.
Still, if we are going to consider this safety screening, isn’t it about time we lay down the law on active cell-phone use while driving?
It used to be that many of the near misses one had as a pedestrian were with huge cars piloted by shrinking old people who couldn’t see well over the steering wheel and were down to the reaction time of a snail.
Not anymore, though. The vast majority of these encounters, and they seem to be increasing rather than decreasing, are associated with inattentive younger drivers (that is under the age of 60) who cannot stay unplugged even long enough to drive to the local grocery store.
I don’t live in a major metropolis, yet the problem of inattentive drivers is so pervasive that, after dusk, I have taken to wearing a yellow safety vest and putting an orange safety collar around the waist of my very little, very black dog just so we can startle motorists into noticing we are there. We are certainly an arresting sight, picking our way across the frozen streets; and fortunately my advancing years preserve me from the vanity that might have earlier restrained me from such an eccentric display.
We used to actually plan ahead before we hit the road, and that worked pretty well. Cell phones were a great help when things went wrong because we didn’t have to go hunting for a pay phone. Then, with that usual sense of entitlement that accompanies technology as it passes into the commonplace, we just came to demand instant gratification of all our communication needs.
Deprived of his own personal phone as a small child, by the end of college my son was so plugged-in that he often didn’t know ten-minutes ahead of time whether he was going to the movies in St. Albans or joining a gang headed to Burlington. He and his friends would decide what to do that evening, and even where to meet, on the spur of the moment.
Now, with multiple communication platforms competing for users’ attention at every moment, the average guy’s cerebral cortex is lit up with more distractions that Shinjuku at rush hour.
So, let’s make a cross-generational deal. We aging motorists won’t grouse at new testing retirements if everyone else will seriously consider a ban on active cell-phone use while driving. I don’t just mean texting or watching clips of a cat doing the hula; I mean the whole shootin’ match. If you’ve got to talk, pull over. Period.