Archive for Thursday, January 19, 2006

Safety should determine driving age restrictions

January 19, 2006

I remember when I first learned to drive. I was about 13 and full of confidence with my 15-year-old cousin as my "instructor."

Of course, my parents had no clue that I was under the tutelage of my cousin, let alone learning to drive. I started out with short "drives" of going forward and backward when the car was parked in my driveway. Never going beyond that as for the fear of getting caught.

One day, my parents had left the car as they had gone out with another couple. That day, I decided it was time for me to take the next step and drive the car out into the street and back into the garage. I had my younger brother, who was 8, watch for traffic on the street.

As I backed up, feeling a sense of accomplishment, barely being able to see through the back window, I heard a thud as I reached the end of the driveway. With my brother not in sight, and not being able to see if the path was clear to go on the street, I stopped the car and got out to check the street and look for my brother. I was shocked to see my brother lying under the car. I had just run over him. He was in shock and didn't say a word.

In a moment of utter brilliance, I got back in the car and drove it back to the garage as I ran over my brother again. This was so that I could park the car before I got caught. Never did it occur to me that the loud thump I heard was the sound of me running over my brother again.

As soon as I had parked the car, I rushed to pick up my brother and carried him into the house. He was still in a state of shock, not saying much. I checked him the best I could, but the most important thing I did was to convince him not to tell my parents that I drove the car. Miraculously, he agreed and even more divine was the fact that he survived being run over twice with no injuries. To this day, my parents don't know about this incident.

I share this story because sometimes it is so easy to be disillusioned when it comes to driving. The new and young drivers feel invincible when they get behind a set of wheels. The need for speed is of the utmost importance for most new, young drivers.

Most teenagers can't wait to get their license to show the world what competent drivers they are with very little experience. I was shocked to learn teens can get a driver's permit in Kansas at 14 -- the same age I almost killed my brother. Even at 16, I question the maturity one has to sensibly take to the roads.

On the other end of the spectrum, a lot of elderly drivers are not willing to give up the "freedom" or mobility even though their driving capabilities are impaired. I have seen so many elderly drivers who have been the cause of accidents, not because of their ability to drive, but their inability to operate with a peripheral sense.

I have seen them drive down the wrong way of an exit ramp with oncoming traffic. I've seen them pull up in front of cars without a sense of the speed of the oncoming vehicle.

As much as I believe in the freedom for an individual to operate a motor vehicle, I also think the right to do that should not supersede the safety issue. It's easier to hold back young drivers and control their access to driving. But for the elderly, any form of limitation driving is often an issue as it becomes personal and viewed as restricting independence.

I have no problem with the elderly driving, but just as the younger drivers need to prove themselves before they gain their total independence, I think there should be a more frequent form of testing to prove the driving ability of our more matured seniors.

This should not be viewed as taking away their liberties, but making the safety of others precedence. After all, no one wants to have a reckless driver on the roads, regardless of age.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.