Not That They’re Old…
drivers by definition bad drivers?
I doubt it.
In all likelihood,
todays bad old drivers were also bad middle-aged
(and young) drivers. They didnt become bad drivers because
they got old; they were never good drivers to begin with.
Old age just
made them worse.
the population has roughly doubled over the past 40 years, we have
more bad drivers on the road than ever before of all ages
but also oldsters, of which weve probably got twice
as many now as we did circa 1970. Theyre living longer
and so also driving longer than the old people of the past.
what makes it seem as though we have epidemic of senescent drivers
a gantlet of geezers driving through plate glass windows;
piddling along at 20 under the speed limit
not age, per se.
skill set of the individual.
A person who
was a superb driver as a young person will likely still be a good
driver maybe a better driver than most people even
well into old age. And conversely, a person who was a marginal driver
at 25 is probably going to be a disaster at 75, when their already
iffy abilities are notched down to downright dangerous by weakened
eyes, slowed reflexes and other inevitable age-related physical
unlike the person who is fit and active vs. one who isnt.
was never very active, even as a young man. He didnt play
sports; never got into physically active pastimes. After he graduated
college, he spent most of his free time watching TV. He ate poorly
and too much.
on the other hand, has been active from youth and remains so today.
He spends a lot of his free time doing physical things, including
running/walking, weight training and so on.
By age 45,
Joe is in terrible shape. Hes twenty pounds overweight and
already taking medicine for his high blood pressure and cholesterol.
He is not half the man he was at 20.
But Ed at 45
is in much better shape; he may even be in better shape at 45 than
Joe was at 20. He is taking no medicines. He is still wearing the
same size pants. He can still do virtually everything he was able
to do at that age, while Joe cant or has great difficulty
another 20 years. Joe is now a feeble old man; weak and slow. He
looks old; he feels old. He has trouble with even minor physical
exertions. In another few years, he will probably need a cane
or a Hover round motorized wheelchair.
But Ed seems
to have hardly aged at all. He still has excellent flexibility and
strength; no problems doing virtually anything he might have wanted
to do at age 45.
more in the bank, so to speak.
While we all
age, he shows the effects of aging less because he started out at
a higher level.
the same, I think.
(and current high-performance driving instructor) Bob Bondurant,
for example, is well into his 70s now but I have no doubt
he can still drive better, faster, than 99 percent of the public.
I know it, because Ive been through his school and
been in a car with him driving.
The point is:
People dont become bad drivers overnight or just because
theyve turned 70 (or even 80).
such as diminishing eyesight and reflexes are factors. But they
affect an already poor driver much more noticeably than a driver
who started out with excellent skills. And since there are many
more already-marginal drivers out there than good (let alone great)
drivers, as the population increases and ages, well have more
and more problems.
But the underlying
problem is not age.
we dont do anywhere near enough to screen out the marginals
before they ever get that first license. Theres next to no
meaningful driver training in this country let alone testing
prior to issuing people their first license. And once theyve
got it, it is almost impossible to take it away.
If the system
expected no, demanded more of people than the
ability to turn an ignition key and move the gear selector from
Park to Drive, I guarantee that so-called
senior driving would quickly become a non-issue. Because
those bad old drivers (today) would probably have never gotten that
first license yesterday when they were bad young
with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.
[send him mail] is an
automotive columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2011 Eric Peters
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