Highway into the twilight years

Driving is an essential part of our everyday lives and should not be taken away unfairly.

More than half of U.S. states now have restrictions in place on drivers both young and old. Although teenagers and elderly drivers have the highest crash rates among age groups, placing restrictions on an entire age group is unfair. What social upheaval would occur if similar restrictions were in place based on gender or race?

Some restrictions on elderly drivers include making them renew licenses more often as they age and having their vision checked. Though this will eliminate those who can’t see, this will not always weed out other drivers who may pose a problem. The National Motorists Association says it believes most crashes are caused because of diseases that affect the minds of the elderly. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, might go undiagnosed until its later stages and wouldn’t necessarily be apparent at a drivers ervices vision test.

There are other ways of dealing with the problem than placing restrictions that aren’t effective. In Portland, Maine, a program called the Independent Transportation Network has been offering a free ride service to the elderly. When they reach an age where they feel they cannot drive, or simply do not want to have to drive, they can trade in their cars to the program. The value of the car is placed in an account, and whenever they need a ride somewhere, they can just call up the network.

Volunteers and paid drivers will transport the participant with a deduction from their account. The program is run solely on donations and trade-ins. This way, the elderly don’t have to fuss with cabs or buses. They don’t have to worry about driving themselves if they aren’t fully able to. Most importantly, it doesn’t force them to do anything, only gives them a convenient option.

Programs such as these are being implemented all over the nation and would be a wise expenditure by the federal government. Driving is an essential part of our everyday lives and, as an aging population, the problem of high crash rates demands alternatives, not broad and unfair measures.