I don’t hate our senior citizens. New Zealand became the country it is today thanks to the labour of generations that came before us, and for that I am very grateful. Sure, they could have done a better job when it comes to things like planning city transport networks properly instead of throwing last-minute fixes at things long after it is needed, but they still did alright. So, excuse me while I sound like an asshole by saying this: Old people shouldn’t drive.
Ok, ok, turn caps lock off and step away from the comments section for just a second. I admit, not ALL old people are shitty drivers, so let me follow up on that previous sentence by doing a last-minute add on (much like what the Auckland council does with transport problems):
“Unless they can pass physical driving tests to prove they are still capable and confident drivers.”
I’m not saying we should be taking the older generation’s freedom away, but there has definitely been an increase in instances where an elderly man or woman managed to cock up while driving with disastrous results. One of the more common causes of incidents involving older drivers, is where they mess up the very first thing someone learns when driving a car: Which pedal makes you zoom-zoom like you’re in a Mazda commercial, and which pedal makes you stop. Between what shouldn’t even be a beginner mistake and legitimate medical reasons, older drivers have been responsible for quite a bit of bent metal recently, and in this terrible case, a fatality. At some point, a line has to be drawn in the sand. Like a host of other problems caused by shitty drivers in NZ, the blame for this lies squarely with driver licensing system and the fact that we seem to be handing the fucking things out like candy.
A drivers license is not just a plastic card which you show off to work colleagues and friends while playing a game of “who has the worst looking photo on an official document.” Its one and only purpose is to prove that the holder of the license is 100% confident and capable of operating a motor vehicle in all scenarios a driver is expected to encounter on a regular basis. Yet for some reason we have people who can’t pull into a parking spot in under 30 attempts, which is funny on YouTube, until you realise those people share the road with you, or those who can’t seem to tell the difference between two arrows pointing in different directions. A few years ago, I was offered a ride home from an old work colleague. Upon reaching the motorway (highway for the non-Kiwi’s) she got to about 60km/h and stayed there. When I asked her why she’s doing 40km/h under the speed limit, she replied “I am too scared to do a hundred”. Too scared to do 100km/h? Who the fuck gave you a license? If you are too “scared” to do something you’re expected to be able to do, then you don’t qualify to hold a license. Ever heard of an airline pilot too scared to land an airplane? Think he’d have a license?
The same can be said for every time an old man or lady do the ol’ switch-a-roo on the pedals by mistake. If a driver reaches the stage in their driving life where they panic in completely normal situations and end up standing on the gas pedal instead of the brake resulting in a crash, then their license should be revoked and not be allowed to drive. Much like how you don’t give a gun license to someone who’s first instinct is to look down the barrel after a miss fire, we should probably stop giving drivers licenses to people who sit at roundabouts waiting on cars several miles away because they’re too scared to go, and definitely start taking them away from people who don’t qualify anymore.
Now, some of you may already be saying how there already are some controls such as a medical check up in place to make sure older drivers are healthy enough to drive, and they’d be correct. At the very least, these help shrink the number of crashes caused by medical reasons. However, this does nothing for completely healthy people who just plain can’t drive or react faster than a snail in the way of a steam roller.
According to the flow chart above, if you are over 75 and a doctor declares you medically fit to drive, you’re good to go, license renewed. Only in some cases are older drivers required to pass an on-road safety test. What I am saying is the top two options in that chart shouldn’t be there, especially when we consider the fact that people’s lives are at stake. Check our that link, specifically figure 3, which is a road fatality break down by age. The New Zealand Transport Agency loves doing their “speed kills” ads, and how we should all pay better attention at intersections. That’s all well and good, but not once have we seen a “If you can’t fucking drive, don’t drive” campaign. Here, I’ll start us off with a billboard:
I think it is high time we get onto that one.