Curbing Bad Drivers Of Any Age

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - May 23, 2007

Two stories regarding transportation recently caught my attention.

First, the state of Hawaii is wrestling with that third rail issue of elderly driving. We have seen a focus by law enforcement and legislative bodies to improve safety on our roadways.

Statistics have shown that drivers over the age of 70 are involved in a similar percentage of accidents as those drivers age 15-24. These numbers fly in the face of conventional wisdom (usually advanced by older drivers) that it’s the younger drivers who pose a greater risk than their elderly counterparts. Anecdotally, there may be some truth to this statement, but the data does not bear that out.

There is tremendous opposition by older drivers and their advocates (AARP, etc.) for increased regulation and standards for obtaining and renewing a driver’s license. As with most legislation, it is difficult to apply a single law to such a diverse population. Although tougher laws make sense when applied to those who truly should not be on the road, that standard may not apply to the senior citizen standing next in line at the DMV.

I can understand that. However, we set benchmarks that need to be satisfied in other areas, too. It is logical to pursue the most stringent policy possible when allowing the operation of a 2,000-pound vehicle.

Let’s face it. The human body suffers from planned obsolescence. We naturally deteriorate over time and our components do too. Mental acuity, vision and reflexes are just a few. It seems prudent to ensure vehicle operators possess all the skills necessary to drive safely. I am not advocating the cessation of driving privileges determined solely by age. However, I do support the representatives of the people to set the age threshold where enhanced testing would be necessary. Is that age 60, 70, 80 or beyond? I don’t know. But the siren call for safety on the streets would be well-served with a thoughtful, deliberative and common-sense approach to awarding the privilege to drive.

Second, a recent report from AutoVantage has determined for the second consecutive year that Miami is the road rage capital of the nation. Other cities making the list include New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Chicago, Sacramento, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Clearly, nobody from AutoVantage had observed the Middle Street merge at 5 p.m. They did not monitor the H-1 Ewa-bound near Pearl City in the afternoon, nor were they standing by at the H-1/H-2 merge at 6:30 a.m. The editors did not send out a reporter to Kapiolani Boulevard at any time, and they must have missed Beretania Street through downtown. If they had dispatched a set of eyes and ears to these locations and others throughout Honolulu, there is an excellent chance for our appearance on this dubious list.

Is it just me, or are the instances of cutting drivers off, dangerous tailgating, speeding up then slowing down and wild gesticulations of the middle finger escalating? It seems to me some drivers are becoming more aggressive with speed and erratic/distracted driving.

What drives (no pun intended) this behavior is not steeped in logic, but rather emotion. But you cannot legislate emotion. You can’t pass a law that states, “You must drive with aloha!”

It seems to me if we do alleviate the conditions that breed such emotional outbursts, we can mitigate these problems. What we do have direct control of is fixing our abysmal roads, increasing lane miles to accommodate our drivers, ensuring all traffic lights are synchronized for smoother flow and minimizing the impact of lane closures.

Here’s a start. Let’s demand cutting the 61 cents per gallon the government collects on a gallon of gas. That would put a big smile on a lot of drivers’ faces.

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