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Invoke Mandatory In-Car Testing for Senior Citizens

Original post made by Mike, College Terrace, on Nov 25, 2006

The tragedy that occurred on el Camino last evening - with yet another senior citizen making a fatal error in judgment - leads one to think about demanding mandatory *on-road* testing for ALL seniors over 65.

This isn't to say that young people don't also make these errors in judgment (I'm for keeping everyone under 21 off the road, for different reasons), but the unnecessary deaths caused by elder individuals who are physically and/or mentally incapable of controlling a few-ton vehicle, or reading road signs, or hearing sirens, etc.

These exams could be staged, with 65-year-olds subject to tri-annual exams, through age 74, bi-annual exams from 74-83, and yearly exams thereafter.

Another thing we need to start working toward is cheap, accessible mass transit that will permit anyone, at almost anytime, to *easily* get where they want to go without having to get into their cars.

Palo Alto needs to be thinking about this, now, as we're evolving to a senior-dominated population.

Comments (9)

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Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2006 at 1:55 pm

I tend to agree with something along these lines. I was involved in a family argument over this very issue fairly recently. The family was trying to make the elderly father stop driving. As they had already agreed that his early alzheimer's wife stop driving a couple of years previously, he felt that he needed to continue driving to live his life. His family felt that he was a danger on the roads and he should give up. While both points of view were valid, this elderly gentleman continued to drive, be it all very close to home on very familiar roads just to run errands in the middle of the day, it would have been much easier for the family to tell him it was against the law for him not to drive until such time as he had been tested, rather than for them to appear to distrust him which was how he felt.

Families are often in this situation. They do not want to hurt the feelings of their parents, but they realise that perhaps it is time to stop driving long before the elderly parent wants to give up completely. It is always hard when the tables are turned and the children have to start parenting roles on their own parents.


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Posted by Jill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 25, 2006 at 10:57 pm

I agree that Palo Alto needs to start thinking about transit options for seniors. The boomers will start to swell the senior population within the next decade. We need to become a town with many more buses or vans running around town -- dare we hope that they would be electric or at least hybrid? -- and at frequent intervals. I can't imagine losing driving privileges, but it will sting less if there's a reasonable and easy to use alternative.

I don't know where the money for the Palo Alto Shuttle comes from, but the city needs to beef up that budget tenfold.


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Posted by sarlat
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 27, 2006 at 7:33 am

I tend to agree with the post. Although I am about 30 years younger than the elderly driver mentioned, I am aware that my driving reflexes and instincts have significantly slowed down. As someone who rides his bicycle on a daily basis, I have first hand experience of elderly drivers who tend to be unaware of what is going on on the road and their surroundings and whose reflexes are often almost completely gone. Conversely, It makes no sense to outlaw the sale of alcholic beverages to young people under 21 while allowing them to drive vehicles that can and do kill hundreds of thousands of people annually. Many young people are too immature and irresponsible to drie a car and with them, just like with elderly drivers it should be a case by case permit. Driving is a priviledge, not a constitutional right.


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Posted by joyce
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 27, 2006 at 11:13 am

Geez, I am 63 and I am not incompetent. I have fast reflexes, which is a good thing, because at least twice I have had to take fast evasive action to avoid being hit by a young idiot using a cell phone when driving.

If you want more extensive and more frequent testing for drivers, fine. But make it apply to everyone.


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Posted by LJ
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 28, 2006 at 10:51 am

I had to get my 80 yr old mom to stop driving this year. She was very defient, and didn't think she was impaired. However, I had numerous friends of hers call me with concerns over her driving. I spoke with her doctor, who then notified the DMV, who requested a retest. Since my mom couldn't pass the written exam, her license was suspended. Her neurologist said that the driving (in car) exam is easier for the elderly to pass, and that the written exam is designed to catch those showing signs of dementia.

I did have to get her car keys away from her and sell her car since she continued to drive on her suspended license!!! Luckily I had the DMV behind me and I let her know she could be sued for all of her assets (as well as jailed). Now she walks, takes the City bus, and I drive her on weekly errands.

I can tolerate her rants about not driving since I am now able to sleep at night without worrying she might injure someone.


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Posted by a neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2006 at 1:51 pm

Statistically, teenagers cause more fatal traffic accidents than seniors. Lets have bi-annual driving exams for 16 to 25 year olds. Do you realize how much it would cost the State to hire the testers to give driving tests to every senior over 65 - Billions, and that is why it won't happen. Anyway why discrimate against seniors, their driving record is much better than teenagers.


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Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 28, 2006 at 3:20 pm

The biggest difference between teenage drivers and senior drivers is that as time goes by, teenagers gain more experience and lose their impetuant style as they realise that they are not infallible, whereas seniors advancing in years lose eyesight, hearing, hand/eye co-ordination, ability to act quickly, etc. etc., at an alarming rate once the decline starts. Yes, they have the maturity and experience, but it only takes a bout of flu, or something quite trivial to the rest of us, to start making a difference in their faculties. I know many senior drivers who are wonderful drivers, but they are able to acknowledge that they aren't as good as they used to be. Many stop driving in the dark, or refrain from using Highways or even do not go out of their own familiar neighborhoods. That is a good clue to me as to the fact that their driving ability will not remain good for long.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2006 at 6:00 am

As a 70 plus year old who has a full time job and must commute to another City daily, I need to drive, and as a productive members of society, I don't like being discrimated against. Perhaps the law will change in time for all you younger folks who criticize older drivers to have mandatory testing when you are 65.

Incidentally, I drive a stick shift which helps to alleviates the possibility of my putting my foot on the accelorator instead of the brake, which is the cause of many accidents.


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Posted by Kristi
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2007 at 10:43 am

I do believe that an annual test of some sort should be given to our senior population. I would gladly take that exam when the time has come. I would not want to be on the road if I were going to be a danger to others and myself. I do not feel that this is discrimatory to seniors, I believe that it is a fact of life that as we get older we are not able to do as we once we able to. I am concerned about the welfare of the public as well as the person driving. If you are an active senior that works,and drives on a daily basis you should feel confident that you are driving safely.


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