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Eric
02-20-2011, 07:43 AM
Are older drivers by definition bad drivers?

I doubt it.

In all likelihood, today's "bad old drivers" were also bad middle aged (and young) drivers. They didn't become bad drivers because they got old; they were never good drivers to begin with.

Old age just made them worse.

And because 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 we've probably got twice as many now as we did circa 1970. They're living longer - and so also driving longer than the old people of the past.

That's 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... .

But it's not age, per se.

It's the 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 problems.

It's not unlike the person who is fit and active vs. one who isn't.

"Joe" was never very active, even as a young man. He didn't 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.

"Ed," 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. He's 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 can't - or has great difficulty doing it.

Fast forward 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.

Ed's got 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.

Driving's the same, I think.

The ex-racer (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 I've been through his school - and been in a car with him driving.

The point is: People don't become bad drivers overnight - or just because they've turned 70 (or even 80).

Yes, factors 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, we'll have more and more problems.

But the underlying problem is not age.

It's that we don't do anywhere near enough to screen out the marginals before they ever get that first license. There's next to no meaningful driver training in this country - let alone testing - prior to issuing people their first license. And once they've 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 drivers.

dom
02-20-2011, 11:09 AM
In the news this week some older driver killed three. I'll post the article if I find it.

Eric
02-20-2011, 11:20 AM
In the news this week some older driver killed three. I'll post the article if I find it.

I bet this guy was a shitty driver all his life, too. A Clover at 40 is a serious menace at 70!

Two personal "cases in point."

My Dad is a terrible driver; he's old now - but he was also a bad driver when I was a kid. He'd wander over the double yellow. He'd hesitate too long, then pull in front of other traffic. He'd not notice lights had changed. Mutliple fender benders during those years.

Now he can't see well and has arthritis. That makes him much worse. Thank god, he voluntarily stopped driving last year.

My Mom, on the other hand, is a very good driver. When I was a kid, she'd haul ass in the big green Oldsmobile we had. She never wrecked. She's still a good driver today, even though she is now in her 70s.

She just had better motor skills/sense of spatial relationships, etc., than my Dad.

I think that makes all the difference.

Driving, after all, is a skill. Some people are just naturally better than others.

Training definitely helps. But some people will never be good drivers, no matter how much training they get. Others may be outstanding drivers even though they never had any formal training to speak of.

Adam
02-20-2011, 12:13 PM
I'm not sure what kind of driver I'll be in my grandpa years. However I do work out at the gym try to get there a couple times a week. I drive everyday to work and back a round trip of 120 miles. In better weather I enjoy riding my motorbike to work but unlike my younger years when nothing could stop me from riding I'm more selective and watch and listen to radio and traffic reports. Since 2006 I have driven over 120,000 miles on my Honda Civic and plenty on the motorbike too without too much trouble. Still I do get tailgated sometimes but all that driving has made me way more alert of everything going around me. I try never to tailgate but will pass without hesitation I mean if it's there I'll take it. Some passes are way too dangerous for me now but I'll make the occasional three or four one . I find I'm more aggressive driver when alone and less so with passengers. I don't play the radio when passengers are in the car unless they all vegging.

swamprat
02-23-2011, 09:15 PM
My parents were the opposite case from Eric's. My dad was an excellent driver until his last two years of life. He never had an accident in his entire driving career. My mom was only good on the freeways. She only had one accident, though. I can't even say that about myself. I have had two minor fender scrapes. Both times, I was distracted, thinking about something else or arguing with a passenger in the car.

I consider myself to be a good driver. Not the best not the worst. At 47, my eyesight has declined significantly, but I am in better shape than someone in their 30's. I drive better during the day than at night. Always have.

I hope that I will not be too much of a menace on the roads when I turn 70. Working out and staying active, something I have learned later on, is the best way to stay ahead. The great thing about that is that you can start at any age, though the younger the better.

I agree. Once a clover, always a clover.

I know one thing - they will have to pry the key from my cold dead fingers.

MikeHalloran
02-23-2011, 10:57 PM
My mother, now departed from old age, was a terrible driver.
Despite her age, she was inexperienced.

She had a license for nearly all of her adult life, but Dad hardly ever _let_ her drive, and on the few occasions when he did, he would in own way try to help her get better, by pointing out every single mistake, sometimes by yelling. Every such experience eroded her confidence and left her less willing to try again. So she basically sat in the passenger seat for decades.

Dad was a very good driver himself, better in many ways than I'll ever be, but not a gentle teacher.

When he died, she tried, but she couldn't reliably back the (big) car out of the (narrow) garage without dinging something or shearing off a mirror. Once on the road, she would go too slow, out of timidity, and plan ahead too far, so she was in the passing lane for miles before turning left. Other drivers would honk at her or zoom around and cut her off, and that would leave her rattled and spitting mad for hours. Somebody filed a formal complaint about her, and that got her _really_ mad. Too mad to study or take a lesson. She flunked a road test, and angrily refused help or lessons or another test, so the state yanked her license. So she went back to passenger status, with my sister driving.

Eric
02-24-2011, 06:45 AM
My mother, now departed from old age, was a terrible driver.
Despite her age, she was inexperienced.

She had a license for nearly all of her adult life, but Dad hardly ever _let_ her drive, and on the few occasions when he did, he would in own way try to help her get better, by pointing out every single mistake, sometimes by yelling. Every such experience eroded her confidence and left her less willing to try again. So she basically sat in the passenger seat for decades.

Dad was a very good driver himself, better in many ways than I'll ever be, but not a gentle teacher.

When he died, she tried, but she couldn't reliably back the (big) car out of the (narrow) garage without dinging something or shearing off a mirror. Once on the road, she would go too slow, out of timidity, and plan ahead too far, so she was in the passing lane for miles before turning left. Other drivers would honk at her or zoom around and cut her off, and that would leave her rattled and spitting mad for hours. Somebody filed a formal complaint about her, and that got her _really_ mad. Too mad to study or take a lesson. She flunked a road test, and angrily refused help or lessons or another test, so the state yanked her license. So she went back to passenger status, with my sister driving.

Boy that's a tough one...

When your mom (or dad) is known to you to be a bad driver but they don't see it and get defensive when anyone points it out, or get furious when other, exasperated drivers try to get around them.

This is why I wish the cops - the system - would focus more on things like erratic driving, driving too slowly/creating a rolling roadblock, etc. - rather than "speeding."

Of course, there's less money in it (going after bad drivers) which explains why they spend their time pointing radar guns at traffic instead.