Geezer alert:

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.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

15 thoughts on “Geezer alert:

  1. 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.

    I can agree with that.

    But lets not try to limit the ability to reload while rollin’.

    Might piss some folks off… (guess this is where its a bonus to have those large capacity magazines… fewer distractions while driving.)

  2. better clear this one with Senators Rand Paul and Lindsay Graham and any others that want to raise the Social Security retirement age to 70 and early retirement  benefits to 64. I doubt they are for funding any kind of public transportation bill that would deliver non-driving geezers to and from work in their final golden years of employment.

  3. While there has been a bill drafted to this effect, it is my belief that we have many bigger fish to fry this session and that this bill will not be given the full and thorough airing it does deserve. The real issue here is whether or not any of the Baby Boomers have the guts to talk to their parents about when it’s at last become unsafe for them to drive. Tough sell as driving is key to living independently here in our rural state.

    -Rep. Mike McCarthy

  4. I don’t like laws that restrict me because other people are idiots. This comment is solely about cell phones and not about texting.

    When I first got a cell phone I was living in New York City.  One evening I was walking down the sidewalk talking on the cell phone and stepped right out in front of oncoming traffic.  After almost being run down by a delivery van, I realized just how much of your cognitive brain power is diverted into a phone call.

    All of us have experienced that moment while driving when you realize you’ve been daydreaming and don’t recall the details of the last few miles.  Being on the phone is like that, but even worse.  While the amazing brain can drive the car without direct conscious input, the phone call takes even more resources than usual, and so responding to road conditions and traffic is affected greatly.

    Knowing all this, I do make and take phone calls while driving, I love talking to my mom out of state as I drive I89 from Montpelier to Burlington, for example.

    To counter the distraction I have changed my behavior: I consciously pay far more attention to the world outside my car while on the phone, I am looking in mirrors, watching for deer, paying close attention to traffic. I put my cell phone on ‘speaker’ so I don’t have to hold it to my ear and I am ready to drop it the moment I need both hands. (Come on, who really drives all the time with both hands on the wheel?)

    So I recognized the details of the problem, analyzed it and come up with a plan to counter-act that.  I can drive as safely while on the phone as I do when not – maybe even more safe because I am intentionally paying attention in a way that I don’t always do otherwise.

    And I realize that I am exceptional in this.  And that most people are too self-absorbed to care to even notice a problem.

  5. My cat does NOT do the hula!  All joking aside, anyone who thinks they are above reproach using a cell phone while driving, should ask the person driving BEHIND them for their analysis(!)

    Nice job, Sue.  

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