Getting old is no laughing matter, which is why it is so much fun making jokes about old people. Take driving, for example. As long as one isn’t driving in the same town as an old person, one can get a real chuckle out of the story of 86-year-old Margaret Lazor who drove her station wagon through Philly, pulled onto the exit ramp of I-95, and then drove in the wrong direction for 12 miles, happily ignoring the fact that four drivers crashed in an attempt to avoid her.
Driving the wrong way on I-95 seems to be a favorite pastime of drivers in the 85-90+ age range, and, since the number of Americans over age 65 is projected to double between 2010 and 2050, we can expect all lanes of I-95 to start changing direction.
Newsweek, in an article titled “Get the Old Off the Road!” presents a doomsday scenario for the roads of our country. The likelihood of a car crash begins to rise after age 60 and to rise rapidly after age 70. Drivers over 85 are not only twice as likely to crash as teens, they are more than five times as likely to be unaware that they were the ones behind the wheel.
The good news for motorists is that baby boomers are 38 percent more likely than post-boomers to answer basic questions about current events. Knowledge of current events in the elderly population still greatly exceeds that of people in their 20s. So, you can take comfort in the fact that the motorist who is barreling down on you from the wrong direction knows that The Supreme Court just upheld the current health care legislation.
What can be done? Aside from designating all highway lanes as directionally optional, not much. Driving is a symbol of independence, and the elderly won’t give that up without a fight. States can test the elderly more often, but testing is expensive. And elderly drivers protest with their votes, so politicians are loath to come down hard on them. Family members can arrange to have the DMV revoke an elderly family member’s driver’s license, but that elderly person can then revoke their family member’s inheritance.
You are left with three choices:
1. If you live in a town with an old driver, move.
2. If you drive on I-95, don’t.
3. If you are 80-95 and still drive, high-five.