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Florida Voters Need to Support Driving Tests for the Elderly

6 Nov
Thank  goodness my elderly relatives don’t know I write a blog. They probably couldn’t navigate their way to it online even if they did.  They can’t figure out how to sign on to the computer even with written instructions, but they feel fully competent to continue driving those moving missiles down our highway. And that’s what scares me.
I have one elderly relative who had multiple strokes, could barely get her right foot into action, but by God, she was going to drive and no one was going to stop her. Back into the car she went soon after she spent several weeks in the hospital and rehab.
In Florida, there are no laws that require the elderly to be retested to get their driver licences renewed. It’s mind-boggling to think of the number of 90 plus year olds, much less the over 80 group, that continue to drive down the road at half the speed limit, with their blinkers on, oblivious to what’s going on around them. Lord help us all if they need to react quickly.
There are only two states – Illinois and New Hampshire – that require the elderly to pass road tests. In 2004, Florida began requiring those 80 and older to pass a vision test. While that state hasn’t kept track of the accident rate among that age group since the law was enacted, it has said that the vision test requirement did remove 17 percent of  drivers 80 years old and older from the roads.
Taking the keys away from independent elderly relatives is truly taking your life in your own hands. It’s often a prolonged process of arguing, praying and ultimately convincing your loved one they are dangerous to themselves and others. I have one relative who got her 93 year-old mother to agree to turn over her keys if she failed the test given by Brooks Health. She passed the written test rather well, but failed the road test miserably. And she stood by her agreement and turned over the keys.
There are few legislators in Florida willing to jeopardize their support from the older voters by enacting laws to require driving tests. It’s hard to blame them. A way to get then off the hook is to initiate a constitutional amendment to require testing. My guess is that everyone under 60 will vote “yes.”
Most older drivers say they’ll know when they gave gone beyond their ability to be on the roads safely. I disagree and liken it to the drinker who thinks he hasn’t been affected by the five drinks he’s already had or the sunbather who keeps laying out thinking she is burning. Like them, the elderly drivers think they have it under control until they hurt someone.
What can we do to keep that from happening?

BADGES OF AGE AND HONOR (and blackmail)

3 Sep

I’ve started a middle-aged revolt. Against my kids. Against their earnest assumption that in all things technical I am a doofus.

Anytime I pick up a piece of equipment, be it a camera, TV remote control, garage door opener, there always seems to be a resounding “I’ll do it mom!”  Years ago they would simply grab whatever the equipment was out of my hand. They have learned the consequences of that.  I’ve begun fighting back like a two-year-old. 

Now, I do appreciate the saying, “If you want to know how to use a complicated piece of equipment, ask a ten-year-old.” But I don’t want to become to my kids what I did to my ex-husband – a technophobe.  In the divorce I also lost my computer repairman. My ex is a hot-shot video editor and handyman. I almost  forgot how to drive a nail when I was married. 

Nevermind that at one time I was the one that all my parents’ friends called to hook up that new VCR thing they had brought home. Or that a college professor/news director actually once threatened to blackmail me if I wouldn’t be his news video editor because I was the only one who could do fast edits of the tape student reporters  brought in. (Didn’t work, but more on that later.)  Or even that I was an awesome photographer with one of those old-fashioned SLR cameras. (They think I’m incapable of using my phone camera now.)

The real problem is of course that I try to do all of the above without wearing  my badge of being over forty – my reader glasses.  If I had a nickel for every cry that went up when I was merely trying to change the volume on the TV and instead changed the channel.

So now my children are trained to wait patiently while I attempt to do whatever it is I’m not doing fast enough for them.  And when I cry “uncle” they will give me a patient lesson in how to do it.

Now back to that blackmailing news director.  I didn’t take the bait, but instead went across town and offered my services for free to the ABC affiliate as it was my last quarter in school and I needed to build my resume tape. Fast forward many years later, and I find out that this said news director was well-known for telling blossoming female students that in order to have a go at anchoring the news they had to sleep with him.  But not me. I was blackmailed for work.  It was my badge of honor to be blackmailed for my video editing talents and not sex. 

Now I can’t work the TV remote.  But don’t tell my kids.