ARE YOU FAST ENOUGH?
Claire Littler wants
old people off the road
'Not only is it the lack of knowledge that concerns me about the older
generation of driver but their ability to see and to react to a situation.'
Recently my boyfriend had to appear in a small claims court after he
was involved in a two-vehicle collision at a roundabout. The man he
was drawing pistols at dawn with was a 75-year-old driver. The case
was so much in my boyfriends favour that his solicitor advised him to
save some money on representational fees, advising the only person who
would be needing a solicitor was the elderly gentleman. He was right.
Fancy that winning the case and not being ripped off by a solicitor,
all in one day.
The case never reached the actual court room, it was settled in the
centre of reception when the elderly gentlemans solicitor decided
he would be fighting a no win case and it was best to admit responsibility
there and then. His solicitor then astoundingly had to inform the gent
of the Highway Code, advising him that when turning right at a roundabout
he should have actually been in the right hand lane and as he hadnt
followed this rule he was the guilty party.
Stories like this make me realise how vulnerable myself and other drivers
are when we are out on the road. When someone is not aware of the basic
Highway Code accidents are sure to happen. Luckily no one was hurt this
time but it still astonishes me that every time I turn on the television
I keep hearing the world discriminate against young drivers. I am constantly
introduced to yet another insurance company offering the more mature
generation cheaper car insurance. Time after time it is these companies
that drum into society that young drivers are the reason so many car
owners have to pay such high premiums. I am by no means disputing that
fact that a section of the young drivers on the road are responsible
for accidents but dont be mistaken into thinking they are the
only dangers on the road.
Learner drivers of today have to undertake the most complex driving
test there has ever been if they want the privilege of attempting life
on the open road. Not only is it much easier to fail the actual practical
test but now before people even get to this stage they have to pass
a theory test. I believe that if the elderly gent was made to take a
driving test today he would undoubtedly fail. I strongly believe he
would not even have the opportunity to sit behind a wheel from miserably
failing the theory test.
Unfortunately though he is behind a wheel and he is not alone. There
are thousands of people out there that are in the same situation. They
took their test, without a theory section years ago. Now they have forgotten
the rules, how to apply them and are unaware of any new procedures such
as mini roundabouts and bus lanes.
Not only is it the lack of knowledge that concerns me about the older
generation of driver but their ability to see and to react to a situation.
It has been scientifically proven that eyesight and reaction times deteriorate
with age but apparently this doesnt matter, well at least until
you are 70.
As the law stands today a person of 17 years old can pass their driving
test and are free to drive without having one single eye test, health
check or Highway code test until the age of 70. However, even when they
reach this age they are only required to have an eye test. There is
no check up required to test a persons reaction speed, nor their
health, or their Highway Code knowledge, they dont even have to
retake their driving test. They could be the most dangerous drivers
on the road but so long as they can read the number plate on the car
in front they are apparently more than adequate drivers. Its scary
to know our lives are in the hands of these people when we venture on
to the road. Its time that people understand that young drivers
are not the only potential risk, after all, whats the point of
experience if youre not fast enough to use it?
© Claire Littler April 2002
(Ed responds; Statistically
more than fifty percent of serious road accidents are caused by young
drivers between the age of 18 and 25. They may know the theory but when
loaded with alchohol or drugs they, like the older drivers forget them.
Statistically, older drivers (up to the age of 65 drive more slowly,
have less accidents and virtually no high-speed lethal accidents. The
accidents they do have are generally of the type described above, a
lapse of memory and driving at slow speeds.
The above article
is intolerant and unthinking. If you could guarantee that young drivers
would obey the laws, not speed, or drink or whatever then their statistics
would reflect that. They don't and every day and especially at every
weekend hundreds die on UK roads from stupid careless driving. And that
is without mentioning driving whilst holding a mobile phone...)
Response from readers:
From email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I think that your comments about Claire Littler's article were extremely
She has made an important point, highlighting that it is not only young
people who can be bad drivers.Littler is correct in asserting that we
hear an awful lot about the inadequacies and recklessness of the younger
driver and very rarely about those of the mature driver. Like it or not
Ed, this is discrimination! A driver should be rated according to their
own individual abilities, not on the basis of their biological age or
for that matter on their level of competency on one day in their lives.
Insurance companies of course are the greatest advocates of this approach,
calculating risk on the basis of predetermined socio-demographic groups.
Discrimination on the basis of age, gender, where you live..
It concerns me how we accept this so blithely. If it was a product of
a developing country the media would be hot on their tails to condemn
the country for institutionalised racism! Whether we are good or bad drivers
depends on us as individuals and the many complicated factors which make
us who we are and external factors which effect our abilities at different
points in our lives. Although it would be a major hassle, (what changes
isn't ) it would be much fairer, and altogether safer if all drivers had
an occasional review of their driving skills and knowledge. Indeed it
could a helpful health care prompt to some drivers who could do with a
physical overhaul, or just some new specs .
Sophie J Richmond
Well OK, lets
do random blood and dope tests for young drivers - we only test for alchohol
at the moment so it would be fair I think to test for recreational drugs
too. Then lets see the stats. I think you will find that the insurance
companies will penalise young drivers even more from what they discover.
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