For a number of years I’ve often thought that the police and motoring authorities could easily implement a new regulation that could help cut a portion of bad driving out on the roads.
We all know speeding is illegal, as is drink driving and now so is using a mobile phone whilst driving. We also know this still doesn’t stop some people putting others at risk. I often see school run mums in big 4×4’s with phones glued to their ears while their precious children are in the back. I’ve seen bus drivers texting, and even a fuel tanker driver eating food from a Tupperware container with a fork. I’m not going to make out I’m perfect though, I was once caught doing 34mph in a 30 limit and was ordered to go on a speed awareness course. I was in the wrong and accepted my punishment. Which is more than can be said for the lady on my course who was adamant it was ok to be doing more than 55mph in a 30 limit because she was going to visit her father in hospital even though she admitted he wasn’t dying. My point here though is that people should know better yet still don’t act on it.
So when a news story breaks today of a fatal accident on the M1 in which an 87 year old male car driver and a 27 year old male van passenger were killed in a head on collision caused by the car driver driving the wrong way down the motorway, I wondered, Is it about time elderly drivers were made to take some form of annual test to see if they are still fit to drive. I’ve thought this for a while now. Currently it’s up to a driver to decide when they are unfit to drive and to surrender their licence. The police now have the power to suspend a licence too but this would usually be after an accident has occurred. Why lock the stable door after the horse has bolted? I would have thought that if you paid just a small amount of attention to your driving, then it’s impossible to drive the wrong way on a motorway or dual carriageway, even at night. If you are at a point where you get so confused you accidently do this, then you are an extremely dangerous driver and should not be behind the wheel.
I have nothing against the older generation at all and I know many are capable drivers. But let’s face it, on the stubbornness scale, the elderly can give the teenagers a run for their money. So it can be difficult to even suggest surrendering a driving licence to someone as we all know how difficult it would be do give up a large portion of your independence. But we all know health deteriorates as we get older and reactions slow. It’s only natural. You often hear older people say they can do certain things anymore, but they still think they are capable of driving a car which can kill if used incorrectly.
I’m not suggesting anything hugely severe or disproportionate for a test. I don’t want to be accused of discrimination either, even though all young drivers and Audi drivers are often tarred with the same brush. My suggestion would perhaps be from the age of 75, a session, which should be compulsory but free of charge, maybe every 2-3 years with an instructor or examiner as a passenger who just assesses awareness and reactions. Perhaps also some form of presentation similar to a speed awareness course highlighting the dangers or slow reactions and poor awareness to make people think properly about their ability to drive. I’ll be honest, I found the speed awareness course I went on quite informative and interesting. Also, Doctors and GP’s need to be more willing to report a patient to the authorities if they feel that person should not be driving. So surely if something like this was in place and just one life was saved as a result then it has to be a good thing right? Unfortunately it’s too late for the family and friends of the 27 year old who innocently passed away today.
In an age when driving tests are becoming increasingly difficult to pass, insurance premiums rocketing for young drivers and even possible restrictions put on them, maybe it’s time to look at the older driver too. I know you will never stop all accidents but everyone needs to be responsible behind the wheel. Whether that is putting down your mobile phone, not driving home from the pub after a couple of beers, or thinking ‘My eyesight is getting really bad, I ought to stop driving’. Some people just need a bit of reminding that they aren’t quite as capable of doing things they used to.
I know giving up your independence can be hard but what is more important, that independence or someone else’s life?