Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Again, This Is What I Deal With...

Police: Man drives 11 miles wrong way on Mass Pike
GRAFTON, Mass. (AP) — An 87-year-old Connecticut man who drove the wrong way on the Massachusetts Turnpike for about 11 miles was not cited but may lose his license.
Massachusetts State Police say they got several calls about a wrong-way driver on the highway at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday.
Now, see, here's the thing. The MA pike (also known as Interstate 90, you might have heard of it) is a TOLL ROAD. This guy managed to somehow get AROUND the toll and onto the highway the wrong way, and never noticed all the cars coming right at him. He was driving in the breakdown area next to the high speed lane for 11 miles and didn't notice anything was wrong. This is a sample of the daily routine here in MA...

It does bring up an unpleasant truth, something that my generation will be facing more and more as our Baby Boomer parents age into this bracket. There comes a time when it becomes genuinely unsafe for grandma or grandpa to be driving. I remember it with my own grandfather - we approached the intersection at the center of town, where there was a stop sign and had always been a stop sign, and - at the intersection of two state highways - I watched my grandfather proceed through the intersection without even slowing down.

At some point - and that point is different for every person - a combination of age and infirmities make it unsafe for someone to be on the road. Whether it's arthritis that slows down reaction time or eyesight degeneration or any number of other age-related physical issues, there comes a time when a driver can no longer adequately respond to the many stimuli and dangers we encounter as drivers. The Registry tests for vision - every 10 years in MA (we can renew online every other time, where no vision test, obviously, is required). There are no reaction tests or even peripheral vision tests (my grandfather lost his peripheral vision to a stroke, yet held a valid license when he passed in his eighties).

There are many factors at work here preventing serious reform. First is the power of the AARP - the folks that would most likely be affected by changes to how the Registry screens drivers would be the elderly. We place restrictions on the hours teens can drive and the number of passengers they can have (0 in MA from the age of 16.5 to 18), yet when it comes to your 80 year old grandmother, as long as she can squint through her half-inch thick trifocals and pass the vision test, she's good until 90. Secondly is the unpleasant fact that taking away grandpa's license means you have to make arrangements to get him to doctor's visits and the grocery store. It's an imposition, and in today's me me me society, one we frequently don't want to assume.

There's also the loss of independence, and a general reluctance to take that away from people - especially people that we know and love and have seen driving our entire lives. My father was a MA State Police officer and participated in several high-speed chases - who the hell am I to tell him he can't drive any more? My father-in-law was a long-haul truck driver - a guy who can drive a tractor hauling a 53' trailer through Chicago can handle around-town driving, right? Taking away the driver's license - especially in the suburbs and more rural communities - is an end-statement on freedom. You make that person dependent on others, which can lead to hurt feelings, angry recriminations, and general discord within a family.

It's a tough, tough choice to make - and I am not looking forward to the day I have to make it...

That is all.


one-eyed Jack said...

Hell, I'll be 78 in May and can still take my exit off rt2 on two wheeles without spilling my beer. Jack.

ASM826 said...

Sometimes it's easier to disable the car.

Brad_in_MA said...


This one is really simple. So simple that even a child could understand. Getting serious about restricting drivers with diminished ability takes one thing -- political will. We also know that pol's respond to the wishes of active voters? So, with those two tidbits, most pols also know that one of the most influential voting blocks in this country is the over 65 crowd. They also know that taking away "stuff" from the over 65 crowd is political suicide. Therefore, the pols, our public servants, will never act as they are truly more interested in self preservation rather than serving the public interest. And as our population of boomers ages, I see this trend getting worse, not better.

BTW . . . . spend a couple weeks near the beach in Palm Beach Country Florida in January or February. From a traffic standpoint, you'll think you've died and gone straight to hell. You really want to be in hell? Go to Hallandale, FL. Even Lucifer himself is trying to get away from there.

libertyman said...

Remarkably, we in NH have dealt with this in a way that the Registry of Motor Vehicles (spit) in Massachusetts will never approach:

"New Hampshire drivers who are 75 years of age or older at the time their current driver license expires are generally required to renew their license in person at a local DMV office. In addition to taking a vision test (see below), you will also be asked to take a road test. In preparation for this, you can review the New Hampshire Drivers Handbook and take practice tests before going for your license renewal."

You in Mass can report someone anonymously to have their license pulled. Some day I will tell you a harrowing tale of my go-round with the Registry in Massachusetts when they wanted to take my Mom's license away. That will be a multi-beverage discussion.

By the way - driving the wrong way on the Pike for 11 miles? I am surprised anyone noticed!

Anonymous said...

As you said someone is going to have to be the driver. That duty might have to be shared so one person does not have to do it all.

Anonymous said...

Dad was losing his eyesight at 70 and knew it. He voluntarily stopped driving but wouldn't give up the vehicle (it was 12 yrs old) just in case someone in the family needed it. The problem was you couldn't get insurance on the vehicle unless you had a driver's license. I offered to put the car in my name and carry the insurance but park it at his house. But he didn't want to go that route. The time came to renew his license and I prepared him for the worst as I knew he couldn't pass the eye exam. So I took him to DMV and he explained the situation. He failed the eye exam but they renewed his license with the caution to not drive at night. He looked at me with a grin and went around telling all his cronies what A$$HATS the DMV was.