I live in a retirement community that is its own city. Statistically, it is one of the safest cities in the U.S. But that relates to the low crime level. In fact, it's one of the most dangerous cities because so many of its drivers maintain the delusion that they are still safe drivers. The age of dying has been increasing to the point that we have many drivers in their 80s, 90s, and yes, even 100 or older. The last thing they let go of are their car keys. That is not for lack of alternatives. In fact, we have a very decent village bus service from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. as well as subsidized taxi vouchers.
Aging means that our vision, hearing, neck mobility, and reaction time are deteriorating. It doesn't make much difference that you have been driving since you were 16. My father had been a traveling salesman who put on millions of miles. He could drive in all kinds of weather and easily found his way around well before the time of GPS gadgets. However, in his 70s, macular degeneration and a mind that could no longer tell whether to turn left or right meant he should no longer drive. But he still had a valid license. In our Village, people in their 90s who renew their driver's license get one that is valid for 5 years. Does that make any sense?
In 2010, I fainted. I was not driving at the time, but I had been driving just 10 minutes before I fainted. A doctor told me that the Department of Motor Vehicles requires that you refrain from driving for 6 months after fainting. She did not report my fainting to the DMV. Remembering how quickly I had fainted, I chose to stop driving. But I've known others in my community who have fainted and the doctors do not tell their patients about the law, and do not report them to the DMV. They just keep driving on our streets.
But even when the DMV does take away the right to drive, some drivers in our community continue to drive without a license. There is apparently no connection between a car registration and a driver's license. When I did drive, I took the AARP Drive Alive courses. The leader of the last one I attended proudly introduced himself as the person who had just helped a 101 year old whose license had been revoked regain a license to drive. Really?
We have always had a high number of accidents in our community, but it is getting worse with the increasing age of the drivers. I saw the aftermath of a 4 car collision in a parking lot. Mixing up the gas pedal and the brake, and using forward when you mean reverse also caused another recent 4 car parking lot accident by someone I know. She is 92, and out looking for a used car so she can get out on the roads again.
Sometimes these elderly drivers turn out to be killers. Within my memory of living here, elderly drivers from our Village killed a young Highway Patrol officer on a motorcycle, a gardener riding a lawn mower, a pedestrian going to a clubhouse, and a lady eating lunch INSIDE a restaurant (yes, the car smashed through the restaurant window).
While I don't think about crime very much in our small community, I practice very extreme caution walking our streets. And I wonder why seniors, many of them my friends, insist they are still good drivers when they clearly aren't.