Trivial Opinions

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Archive for August, 2007

The need for driver testing

Posted by Jack Deus on August 26, 2007

I was driving home from work a few days ago, taking the route I have driven every day for 2 years now, when something horrible almost happened to me. There is one part of the drive that is very dangerous because there is an on ramp to the highway right before it splits into three directions, merging with I-80 east and west and continuing north as I-480. Since I have driven this route many time before I know that in order to merge onto I-80 west I need to be in the far right lane because the middle lane ends on the bridge that merges with I-80. A also know, from driving this route many times, that a lot of other people don’t know this and also don’t know how to read road signs that state “Left lane ends, merge right.” Because I know this I always watch my review mirror once I get on the bridge to make sure no one is going to stupidly try to pass me without having a lane to drive in (this, by the way, has happened to me at least 5 times).

Now that the history is out of the way, here’s what happened to me a few days ago. I was driving in the right lane passing slower cars in the middle lane, coming up to where the onramp merges with the highway. I looked over my right shoulder to make sure no one was on the onramp that needed to merge into my lane and when I turned back I noticed the car to my left drifting in and out of my lane, coming pretty close to hitting me two different times. I slammed on the gas to get past this car and saw that an older gentleman (I use that term for want of a better, more vulger one) of at least 80 was driving and his wife was in the passenger seat. Both of them seemed completely oblivious to the fact that they were trying to drive in two lanes, one of which I was in. Almost getting hit twice in 5 seconds is pretty scary, but that wasn’t even close to the scariest thing this car did. Less than a minute later I am entering the bridge that will loop down to the left and merge with I-80 below me, when I start looking in my rear view mirror and see the same car that I passed is now flying up on my left passing the 2 cars behind me, completely oblivious to the fact that his lane had ended and that he was essentially driving on the shoulder of the bridge. I could tell he wasn’t stopping (or slowing down for that matter), so I crept over to the right a little bit and let him pass me, not wanting to almost get hit for a third time. By the time the old man passed me (still going at least 60MPH) the car in front of me had started following the curve (which ends up going more than 90 degrees to the left) when the old man, thankfully, realized the road curved and started turning (otherwise he would have t-boned the car in front of me and probably would have ran both cars through the cement wall and crashed them 100 feet below onto I-80). He still almost nearly ended up side swiping the car in front of me off the bridge, but luckily the other driver realized this old man had no clue what was going on and slammed on her breaks. Most drivers would realize their mistake by this time and put up an I’m sorry hand to let the car they almost hit know that they weren’t trying to be a jerk, but this old man just kept driving, completely oblivious to his surroundings.

Luckily for everyone on the road that day we were paying enough attention around us to avoid getting into an accident with this old man, but it got me thinking. Most people take a driving test with a member of the DMV when they are 16 and unless they do a lot of stupid things never have to drive with someone making sure they still know how to drive ever again. If my guess was right and this guy was at least 80 that means he hasn’t been evaluated by anyone to make sure he can drive safely in at least 64 years! There have been a lot of advances in technology in that time frame. Cars have changed, lights have changed, signs have changed, traffic patterns have changed. Not too mention the fact that bad habits are probably developed and not corrected. Top all that off with his diminishing reaction time and vision, and that make for a pretty scary and dangerous prospect on the road.

I don’t understand how the state and federal governments can spending billions of dollars on studies to make cars and roads safer and no one has thought that the drivers of these cars on these roads could possibly be the unsafe part and that maybe they should be tested more than once in their lifetime.

I understand that older people do most of the voting and the AARP is a very powerful entity and that politicians don’t want to piss off this group of people, but something needs to be done to get these unsafe drivers off the road, or limit their access to it. I don’t know about other states, but Nebraska has fairly recently tried to cut down on the number of teen drivers (the other statistically unsafe driving demographic) by setting curfews for when they can drive, limiting the number of passengers in the car as they are driving, and issuing special drivers licenses. While I will admit this probably has helped a little bit it is also a cop out because none of this demographic can vote, so the state congress thought it would be an easy way to show they were trying to make the roads safer, without risking their seat by upsetting voters.

What I propose needs to happen is to have mandatory testing every 8 or 12 years where you have to go in and prove to a DMV employee that you can actually still follow all of the laws of the road and that you actually know what is going on around you when you are driving. The DMV would probably have to hire more employees (I’m not sure what the lines are like in other states, but in Nebraska they are usually out the door no matter what time you go there) and even have Saturday hours, but the decrease in property damage and police time investigating accidents would offset this addition cost. The reason why I suggest every 8 or 12 years is so the old people can’t think they are getting picked on because everyone would be affected by these laws not just them. If this was actually made into a law, it wouldn’t just get rid of the bad old drivers, it would get rid of the bad young drivers, and the bad middle aged drivers.

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