Is DriveABLE reasonABLE?
March 25, 2012 5:21 PM   Subscribe

DriveABLE, is a driver testing program, primarily for seniors, implemented across Canada and in the United States and Australia. Questions have been raised about the lack of consistency and accuracy in the testing. With only a 15% pass rate, drivers are complaining about the unfamiliar technology (youtube - DriveABLE computer use demo) and the lack of services in rural areas, where a senior may have to drive several hundred kilometres, to complete the mandatory computer test.

In B.C., driver fitness concerns can be raised by anyone (pdf), however most reports are through police (i.e.: 911; traffic accident) or by a medical service , especially after the treatment of a medical condition (ie: a stroke). As well, at age 80, it is mandatory for all seniors to have a medical review for driver fitness. The medical community has expressed reluctance in being the final word for driver fitness , which has over 400+ pages of various conditions that may affect driving ability.

The B.C. Government, responding to mounting opposition to DriveABLE (youtube link - PSA), has offered a DriveABLE driver road test to those who failed the DriveABLE computer test in the last six months, as an opportunity to reinstate their cancelled drivers licence.

DriveABLE was developed by Dr. Allen Dobbs, of the University of Alberta. His wife, researcher Bonnie Dobbs is behind the SIMARD MD testing program that is implemented prior to the DriveABLE test. Opposition to the SIMARD testing is also rising.
posted by what's her name (56 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Get off your lawn? Get off our roads!
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:24 PM on March 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't know much about this particular testing program, but watching the video makes me thing of one and one thing only:

Surely the best test for whether someone is able to drive would be for an extended (20-30 minute at least) practical driving test in real world conditions with a trained examiner?
posted by hippybear at 5:34 PM on March 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


I imagine so, hippybear, but that's probably way more time/labor/cost-intensive than technological substitutes like these. Lines at the DMV are already long; I'm betting going back to "everyone gets a road test to renew" would make them longer.

Not, I should say, that this particular solution is necessarily preferable in the long run.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:41 PM on March 25, 2012


I'd guess about 15% of drivers are competent to pilot their speedy metal death machines, so that sounds right to me.
posted by cmoj at 5:43 PM on March 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Surely the best test for whether someone is able to drive would be for an extended (20-30 minute at least) practical driving test in real world conditions with a trained examiner?
posted by hippybear at 5:34 PM on March 25


Yes, except:

1- Driving examiners aren't going to be consistent.
2- Those tests are expensive.
3- They can be dangerous for the examiner. (I am familiar with driver examiner places. There are LOTS of near misses and unfortunately, quite a few actual accidents.)

On the other hand, non-driving tests don't account for the years of experience that drivers have built up. Our brains get wired to react at an almost sub-conscious level. It has happened to me- "why am I changing lanes? Oh, that guy is going to crash into me."
posted by gjc at 5:46 PM on March 25, 2012


It is inheritantly discriminatory to single out seniors for competency testing. There are plenty of incompetent drivers of lesser age. If you want to test seniors, test everyone. Moreover the only fair way to test is in real life conditions. A simulator is not an accurate representation of real life.
posted by Jondo at 5:58 PM on March 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


This has been a major concern for my mom and her friends. They are nearing the age when they are facing this test and worried a lot about it. Most of them have next to no computer experience and panic when faced with technology. My uncle failed his test as by the time he figured out what to do to answer a question the program had marked him as failing it.

I'm glad they are changing the rules here in BC. While people may think it is just one driver they are taking off the road it is also a lot of people that person supports. My mom is 71 and she supports my 99 year old grandmother and 65 year old disabled aunt. As well as driving her 11 yr old and 7 year old grandchildren every day. If she fails her test because of having to use a computer then all those people suffer too.

Of course, I am a tad selfish in thinking that it shouldn't be all the responsibility of a computer program as if she loses her license it all falls on me.

People have to realize that there are a lot of people who have no experience with computers and we shouldn't penalize them.
posted by kanata at 6:01 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


3- They can be dangerous for the examiner. (I am familiar with driver examiner places. There are LOTS of near misses and unfortunately, quite a few actual accidents.)

I'd say one of those with the test subject being at fault means no more license with a chance to try again in 6 months with a doctor's note of approval.

But poking your finger at things on a screen? That does not test for driving skills at all. It might test for various kinds of cognitive ability, sure. But I drive for a living and have for over a decade now in a variety of positions. I know what it takes to be a good driver. The ability to remember a word in the middle of a screen full of lines doesn't really enter into it.

I can, in theory, understand what this test is going for, but it's so far removed from what driving actually is that I will remain skeptical about its value until really firmly presented with something that forces me to change my mind. The point is, the lifelong driver has embedded paths of reaction and observation related to traffic and vehicle maneuvering which will NOT be tested by this poke-at-a-screen test.

When gjc says "On the other hand, non-driving tests don't account for the years of experience that drivers have built up. Our brains get wired to react at an almost sub-conscious level.", that's exactly right. I've trained new hires on routes, and know a good, safe driver when I'm riding with one within the first 5 minutes on the road. And the ones who have actual defensive driving training stick out like a sore thumb from those who have only ever gotten their license at 16 and never thought about the process of driving again as long as they haven't arrived dead at their destination.

Who cares if the tests are expensive? Drivers over the age of X or who have suffered some kind of medical event which puts their ability to drive in question need to be tested. The cost of the test can fall on the test subject. Driving isn't a right, and if you had to pay for driver's ed in the first place and have to pay to renew your license regularly, you can certainly add in costs to prove you're still able to drive once you pass the age where most people begin to decline in reflexes and mental processing or if you have had an incident which could impair those same reflexes and processing abilities.

On loading more comments: It is inheritantly discriminatory to single out seniors for competency testing. There are plenty of incompetent drivers of lesser age. If you want to test seniors, test everyone.

I would support this 100%. I find it shocking that I've only had to be tested ONCE, when I was 14, to prove I know how to operate a vehicle. Even with the mandatory 5 year license renewal here in WA state, all they do is test my vision when I renew. Even more shocking -- in AZ, where I lived before this, you got your license once at whatever age, and then it doesn't expire until you're 65. You may have to go in and get a new photo every 12 years, but there is no change in your driving status at all for (potentially) 50 years if you get one as a teen in AZ.

I'd be all in favor of having to take a new practical and written test for my license every 5 years when I renew here in WA. I know it's expensive, but again... driving isn't a right, and we ALL pay for having unsafe drivers on the road.
posted by hippybear at 6:05 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hey, it's another problem we could solve by designing cities for people instead of cars.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:06 PM on March 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


It is inheritantly discriminatory to single out seniors for competency testing.

And it is inherently discriminatory to charge accident-free young drivers higher premiums simply because of their age or sex. But that doesn't mean that it's baseless to do either.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:12 PM on March 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hey, it's another problem we could solve by designing cities for people instead of cars.

That would help for people in cities, but not everyone lives in cities.
posted by aubilenon at 6:12 PM on March 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Hippy bear
Appreciate the kudos but I am not in favor of testing everyone for competancy. In a suburban/rural society people NEED cars to get to work or even shop for food. government needs to get out of peoples lives.
posted by Jondo at 6:12 PM on March 25, 2012


Sorry hippy I'm new to posting it was intended foe one more dead towns last parade
posted by Jondo at 6:14 PM on March 25, 2012


It is inheritantly discriminatory to single out seniors for competency testing.

I don't think age discrimination is always wrong, although I recognize there this particular test could be problematic, and there exists a lot of age-related discrimination in our society, both for the young and the old. Children aren't allowed to drive, for obvious reasons. Pilots face mandatory retirement ages, at least for piloting commercial passenger airplanes. Reaction time increases with age, which is one reason to test seniors more frequently.
posted by 6550 at 6:15 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


government needs to get out of peoples lives.

Oh if we're going to treat The Government as a big bad interfering person...Surely the government has a say on who gets to use its roads that it build and it paid for and that it is responsible for?
posted by Jimbob at 6:16 PM on March 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


government needs to get out of peoples lives.

The government is the people, and the people generally want their roads to be safe and free from drivers who are impaired. Whether that impairment comes from alcohol or drug consumption, cell phone use or texting, or from deterioration of abilities due to age or medical reasons.

If the people want this, then the government is the agency by which the people (who are the government) work to enforce this throughout society.

If you don't recognize that the government is of, by, and for the people, then I don't know what else to say.
posted by hippybear at 6:19 PM on March 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


6550
That discrimination exists does not make it acceptable. Such discrimination is fundamentally illegal as is racial discrimination. I'm sure some people could justify reasons to discriminate against race. Why has law enforcement jailed 1 in 32 mostly black US citizens?
posted by Jondo at 6:21 PM on March 25, 2012


I'm too lazy to read through the multiple scientific articles that the author has published about DriveABLE, but I have a pretty good guess of what methods he used.

Through testing 1700 participants both in the lab tasks (pointing at objects on the screen, etc.) and in real-life driving tests, they developed a statistical model that predicts real-life driving skill based on the lab task ability.

I'm pretty confident that this test is accurately detecting people that aren't able to respond to unexpected events. "Opposition" to a test that tells people they can't drive is a given.

However, I'll grant that this test probably doesn't capture self-regulating behavior (aka driving slower, leaving more following distance) that can compensate for seniors' diminishing eyesight, reflexes and motor control.

And I'll grant that there are probably a whole lot of "young" drivers that would fail this test, and that probably shouldn't be behind the wheel of a car.
posted by anthill at 6:31 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


In a suburban/rural society people NEED cars to get to work or even shop for food.

Sorry, that can be ameliorated at least somewhat by running public transit or on-request transportation services (for the less dense areas). But driving a car is not a right; it is a privilege. End of story.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:32 PM on March 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


That discrimination exists does not make it acceptable. Such discrimination is fundamentally illegal

[citation needed]
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:33 PM on March 25, 2012


You know, as a pinko bike rider who has to deal with shitty, car-centric transportation infrastructure, I'm welcoming the baby boomers hitting their electric-scooter years... finally some non-car infrastructure will get built across America!
posted by anthill at 6:38 PM on March 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


Interesting. My father is 80 and lives in BC and had to get a medical certificate to renew his license this year.

I think we can safely say that the day he has to take this test is the day he stops driving, not because he's no longer competent to drive, but because he doesn't use or understand computers, and he's basically afraid of them. He'd fail the test because he didn't want to look stupid, or break the machine, or look stupid while breaking the machine.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:45 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


government needs to get out of peoples lives.

Oh, please. Public safety is a laudable purpose of government. Testing to ensure that road-users meet a minimum standard of competency is not discrimination, it's plain common sense. The fact of the matter is that reaction times and perceptual abilities decline with age. Recognizing this fact is not "discrimination", and saying so is a complete red-herring.

Any competency test is inherently "discriminatory", and it's a damn good thing too.They exclude some, based on their ability to conduct certain tasks. This is the point of conducting such tests. Otherwise, there would nothing to prevent myopic 6 year-olds from driving 18-wheeled, 9000 gallon gasoline-tankers. I not allowed to conduct brain surgery in my garage either, due to such "government interference". Preventing this is neither unfair, nor "illegal".

They are all sorts of problems with these specific tests, but discrimination sure isn't one of them.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:50 PM on March 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Anything that potentially gets old people out from behind the wheel is A-OK in my book.
posted by Sternmeyer at 7:21 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


In a suburban/rural society people NEED cars to get to work or even shop for food. government needs to get out of peoples lives.

So should we do away with driver's licenses altogether? "Sure, Bob crashed a few times on the road last week and almost killed some people, but he needs to get able to get to work and go shopping!"
posted by kmz at 7:36 PM on March 25, 2012


I don't know much about this particular testing program, but watching the video makes me thing of one and one thing only:

Surely the best test for whether someone is able to drive would be for an extended (20-30 minute at least) practical driving test in real world conditions with a trained examiner?
Surely, you're ten seconds of thinking about an issue outweigh this guys 8 years of research!


The problem is, driving in routine situations becomes routine. You don't need to be 'all there' to drive your normal rout to work, for example. You just do the same thing you always do.

The problem is, what happens in unexpected situations. I.e. when the car starts to skid, or someone else slams on their breaks in front of you, a kid runs out on the street. How long does it take you to realize if you put your foot on the wrong pedal when you're stopping at the farmer's market?

Those are the things that cause accidents. Testing someone on the road will tell you if they have the basic, everyday reflexes down. But it won't tell you how they'll react in unexpected quick decision circumstances.
A simulator is not an accurate representation of real life.
And an eye chart isn't an accurate representation of what you see on the road, but we use it to test people's eyes at the DMV. It's not a driving simulator, it's designed to test your ability to think quickly.
But poking your finger at things on a screen? That does not test for driving skills at all
Yeah, it's not supposed too.
It might test for various kinds of cognitive ability
Which is what it's supposed to be doing.

---

The responses in this thread are amazing. Whether or not 80 year old can still drive on "autopilot" and pass a drive-along driving test is not the question. The question is whether or not they'll be able to react to unexpected events on the road. A ride-along test won't tell you if they can or not.
posted by delmoi at 7:39 PM on March 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


I would comment, but the horror of experiencing a senior nearly causing a head-on collision with me, only to narrowly avert it by driving up on a sidewalk causes me to be biased in my opinion. So: No comment. (And yet I did.)
posted by CarlRossi at 7:41 PM on March 25, 2012


As other posters have said... poking at things on a screen is nothing like actual driving. And the age group this is aimed at are often not the most computer-savvy people. Just past 80, my dad drives perfectly well, but can't program his VCR and completely freaked at the idea of a mobile phone. He'd fail this in an instant.

It's like hiring programmers who have all got certification exams coming out of their ears but are useless in the Real World: passing this test will prove that you can pass a driving simulation test: it says nothing about your skill at driving (or otherwise)
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 7:47 PM on March 25, 2012


Testing someone on the road will tell you if they have the basic, everyday reflexes down. But it won't tell you how they'll react in unexpected quick decision circumstances.

Actually, as someone who drives for a living, has done a lot of defensive driving training, and who also trains other drivers new to the company on their routes, I can tell you that even if there are no unexpected events happening during a time with the newcomer behind the wheel, I'm able to tell whether they are driving with a conscious thinking mind or just on autopilot going through the motions very soon after leaving the warehouse. By the time we've been together for 20-30 minutes, I know exactly what kind of things they pay attention to and what their weak points are with driving practice. And I don't have any specific training about how to assess other drivers, I simply have a lot of experience getting paid to drive and having to do it safely and following all traffic laws.

You seem to assert that simply because you don't NEED to be "all there" during a familiar drive, that means that is somehow what we should expect people be doing -- driving on autopilot and not driving consciously and deliberately.

I assure you, driving on autopilot is exactly the opposite of what we should accept amongst our driving population. If you aren't driving with an active participation in the process, then you're a danger on the road to yourself and others. Indeed, it is on the most familiar routes where active participation is the easiest, because you become familiar with the danger zones along the route and learn how to compensate for them ahead of time as you navigate through them

I'd assert in return that we need to have a more active driver education and refresher training program in all states, with regular real-life assessment of an individual's ability to drive safely and defensively and a small mandatory course in the principles of safe, defensive driving happening at least every 3 years if not more often.

Knowing the strategies for good driving as well as being reminded of them periodically is the best way to keep the roads safe for everyone using them. Autopilot driving should not be expected or accepted; it should be actively discouraged with training and regular real-life condition testing by trained test administrators.
posted by hippybear at 7:56 PM on March 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Jondo writes "It is inheritantly discriminatory to single out seniors for competency testing. There are plenty of incompetent drivers of lesser age. If you want to test seniors, test everyone. Moreover the only fair way to test is in real life conditions. A simulator is not an accurate representation of real life."

The ship sailed on that years ago in BC as it now takes a new driver several years to get an unrestricted licence. It's bad enough that if I was a new driver in BC I'd move next door to Alberta in order to get a licence.

Jondo writes "Appreciate the kudos but I am not in favor of testing everyone for competancy. In a suburban/rural society people NEED cars to get to work or even shop for food. government needs to get out of peoples lives."

Cripes they should be testing everyone, at the driver's own expense, for competency every few years. Said tests to be administered after a mandatory refresher course. It's crazy we hand people licences and then don't make sure they've maintained their skills and knowledge for 60 years. I have to recertify to drive a scissor lift and ear a harness every few years but I haven't had to pass even a simple written driver's exam in 25 years. Especially considering the rules of the road change on a regular basis.

I drive several hours during my work day and the idiocy is rampant. EG: practically no one turns their lights on when it's raining (required by law here in BC); failure to keep right, incapability to navigate a four way stop, incorrect following distances, failure to signal, rolling stops, etc ad nauseam. It's no wonder most traffic cops are such bitter control freaks.

43rdAnd9th writes "poking at things on a screen is nothing like actual driving."

Maybe true but it should be trivial to design a computer test that measures reaction time and relate that to a go-no go scale on whether people are unsafe to drive. A reaction time test is really no different in this regard than a vision test.

True anecdote: I've got ~400/20 vision. Have had for years. Didn't discover this until I turned 16 and needed to get glasses to get a drivers licence. Despite having had road my bicycle in traffic for years. People can compensate but that doesn't make them safe.
posted by Mitheral at 8:02 PM on March 25, 2012


I've got ~400/20 vision.

Surely you mean you have 20/400 vision. If you had 400/20 vision, that means that you could see at 400 feet what most people can see clearly at 20 feet.

If you do really have 400/20 vision, you should volunteer as a military sniper.
posted by hippybear at 8:13 PM on March 25, 2012


Jimbob: "Oh if we're going to treat The Government as a big bad interfering person...Surely the government has a say on who gets to use its roads that it build and it paid for and that it is responsible for?"
Paid for with money that you and I gave them after we elected them so they could take it off us ;-)

There obviously has to be controls on who gets to operate machinery with such a high potential for lethality as a motor vehicle, but reactions and cognitive ability are only one part of the picture. Plenty of people with lightning-quick reflexes and high cognitive skills end up dead on the roads. The key is to stop training people to pass the laughable driving test and train them in how to drive, including what to do when things go wrong. Instead we deem someone who can't reverse park a car as as unsafe driver and hand someone with the judgement of a sponge a licence to go out and mow down as many pedestrians as they want.

hippybear: "Even with the mandatory 5 year license renewal here in WA state, all they do is test my vision when I renew. ..."

Here, they even stopped doing that, because the agency was challenged on the ability of counter staff to accurately administer an eye test. You tick a box on the form if you think you need to wear corrective lenses and sign a declaration buried in the small text that you don't have a condition that makes your eyesight insufficient. My licence doesn't say I have to wear my glasses to drive, but I can't read the number of the car in front of me without a struggle unless I do.
posted by dg at 8:19 PM on March 25, 2012


Mitheral: It takes 3 years in Alberta until a new driver can drive with no restrictions (for example, driving after midnight). 1 year as a learner + 2 years as a GDL driver. Google tells me it's the same in BC?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:47 PM on March 25, 2012


hippybear writes "Surely you mean you have 20/400 vision. If you had 400/20 vision, that means that you could see at 400 feet what most people can see clearly at 20 feet. "

Oops, Yes.
posted by Mitheral at 8:54 PM on March 25, 2012


one more dead town's last parade : Hey, it's another problem we could solve by designing cities for people instead of cars.

Or, we can design better roads (pdf) to meet the needs of a predominantly aging population.
posted by what's her name at 9:08 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Prioritizing easily drivable streets is not the solution. It is the problem.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:25 PM on March 25, 2012


It's like hiring programmers who have all got certification exams coming out of their ears but are useless in the Real World: passing this test will prove that you can pass a driving simulation test: it says nothing about your skill at driving (or otherwise)
Again, it's not a driving simulator, it's a test for cognitive impairment. Just like the eye test is a test to see if your eyes work. They just show you letters, it's not related to driving. But if you can't see the letters, you can't see the road well enough to drive.
You seem to assert that simply because you don't NEED to be "all there" during a familiar drive, that means that is somehow what we should expect people be doing -- driving on autopilot and not driving consciously and deliberately.
Uh, what I'm asserting is that being able to drive under normal circumstances does not mean they are actually a safe driver under unexpected circumstances. Because those things don't happen during a normal driving test - therefore an ordinary driving test gives you no information as to what will happen when those things do come up.

My guess is that if you were driving with the people who failed this test, you probably wouldn't think they were driving well. And really, the fact it's unfamiliar is not that big of a deal. It really isn't complicated. All you have to do is touch a pad on the bottom, then touch the screen. If people can't figure it out, they probably shouldn't be driving, IMO.

Elderly drivers do kill people
posted by delmoi at 9:33 PM on March 25, 2012


Anyway, in a few years we'll all have robot cars anyway.
posted by delmoi at 9:34 PM on March 25, 2012


The computerized test looks pretty difficult, especially for someone not used to computers. On the other hand, I cycle a lot in a city filled with retirees, and I am certain that my fate on this planet is tied to some octogenarian driving a massive sedan.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:27 PM on March 25, 2012


I'd like to see driver testing happening every six years or so. I'm certain insurance rates would drop.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:46 PM on March 25, 2012


What a driver will do in an emergency situation is less important than what they do in all other situations. Defensive driving is all about not getting into an emergency situation in the first place.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:53 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having, like KokuRyu, lived in a city filled with elderly drivers and also having watched my own relatives' abilities deteriorate with age, I welcome mandatory testing for older drivers. At issue are not just the reduced cognitive ability and increased reaction times but also the numerous medications and medical conditions of older drivers. I think that doctors should be obligated by law to inform patients of the danger involved in operating a motor vehicle while taking some prescription drugs, or if suffering from a degenerative condition which affects their ability to drive safely. I've known people on cancer drugs that made it difficult to form coherent sentences but who kept driving, mostly because they were not told not to. I realize that the loss of autonomy can be psychologically devastating, especially for men, but it could not even come close to the devastation they would feel if they were responsible for an injury or death. Anecdotally, just before I left Vancouver island, an elderly man crossed the centre line on a blind curve, killing a young guy coming home from work. I am sure he would have much preferred to surrender his license rather than having been responsible for the death of another person. Perhaps this testing metric is flawed, but until a better solution is implemented, I think it's a good start.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 10:54 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you don't recognize that the government is of, by, and for the people, then I don't know what else to say.

What planet is this you're describing?
posted by Meatbomb at 11:26 PM on March 25, 2012


Graduated licenses for teenagers - graduated licenses for folks past 80 (or 75, or 49, or wherever the science rationally points). It makes perfect sense to me, particularly having seen my 80 year old dad (confident, careful, COMPETENT driver) turn incrementally into my 82 year old dad (none of the above, which he made up for by driving faster, so nobody could claim he was slowing down). Fortunately, the inevitable accident involved only himself and a small tree ... but what if there'd been some little kids between him and that tree? Gives me shivers to even think about it.

The only right a driver should have is the right to take the relevant tests. Should we all be tested regularly? Probably, on some level. But confusing that notion with the issue of folks under-twenty-and-over eighty is ignoring the science. They aren't as good at it as the rest of us. Special regulations should apply.
posted by philip-random at 11:27 PM on March 25, 2012


Mitheral: Uh, 20/400 vision is pretty terrible. It's approximately what mine is, and I cannot clearly see my own outstretched hand without correction.

I cannot read a blackboard, street signs, or this laptop screen without my glasses. I find it near to impossible that you had 20/400 vision and were unaware of it. (Looks like the cutoff for DL acuity is usually 20/40 or 20/60, so I suppose it's possible you had slightly-worse-than 20/40).

Although if it's somehow true that you were 20/400, then it's a good example of someone being unable to assess their own abilities and the visual test catching it, just like we might hope the DriveABLE test catches people whose cognitive abilities have declined too far.
posted by nat at 11:55 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, separate point: before my parents finally managed to take his keys away, my grandfather would sometimes drive off in his car and get sufficiently confused about where he was and what was happening that he couldn't either go back home or even manage to ask anyone to help him get home. It's pretty tough to take the keys away from your own father, and I'm pretty grateful my own folks managed to do it before someone got hurt.
posted by nat at 11:56 PM on March 25, 2012


Wouldn't this be like testing computer ability by putting someone who never drove a car behind the wheel?

Doesn't seem fair at all. At least let the people practice with the interface until they're comfortable. If that's not feasible, then the test should not be the determining factor in whether someone should be allowed to drive.
posted by thorny at 12:35 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love my grandparents. But my grandmother has now had a number of near-misses; she and my grandfather won't drive alone anymore, and it worries me a lot that they require both parties to manage. Yes, they need a car to get groceries and stuff. (Or I'll end up doing it with them, most likely, if they haven't moved into assisted living by then, which seems to be getting incrementally harder to bring up.) But the fix here isn't "let them drive forever". It's "have social support systems to get groceries and necessary items to people who are, for reason of age or disability, unable to drive or otherwise get to the store".

I don't know what my eyes were then, but I also didn't get glasses until adolescence. I couldn't read the blackboard, either, but nobody figured this out because I had long since stopped taking notes or, indeed, doing homework, and I could generally see my notebook well enough to doodle, and everybody had always assumed I just sucked at everything in gym. I got my eyes checked at 14 after something someone else said finally made it clear to me that other people could see things I couldn't. When you have no reference point, it's scarily easy to not notice that you really are less able than the rest of the world.

(I didn't start paying attention in class, but I did turn out to be better than I thought at softball, during the whole one semester of gym I had afterwards.)
posted by gracedissolved at 12:49 AM on March 26, 2012


five fresh fish writes "What a driver will do in an emergency situation is less important than what they do in all other situations. Defensive driving is all about not getting into an emergency situation in the first place."

While true the worlds most defensive driver isn't going to be able to react to a dog jumping out from between two cars if they don't have good reflexes.

nat writes "Although if it's somehow true that you were 20/400, then it's a good example of someone being unable to assess their own abilities and the visual test catching it, just like we might hope the DriveABLE test catches people whose cognitive abilities have declined too far."

Yep, turns out I couldn't see anything and like gracedissolved I just coped. I could read well enough at 18-24" and I didn't participate in many sports. I wore glasses when I was younger then at some point I didn't need them anymore but that was just temporary.
posted by Mitheral at 5:07 AM on March 26, 2012


Jondo: True anecdote: I've got ~400/20 vision. Have had for years. Didn't discover this until I turned 16 and needed to get glasses to get a drivers licence. Despite having had road my bicycle in traffic for years. People can compensate but that doesn't make them safe.

You were legally blind for 16 years and you and no one around you noticed?
posted by jamincan at 5:09 AM on March 26, 2012


Opps, that was Mitheral who said that.
posted by jamincan at 5:09 AM on March 26, 2012


Many drivers on the road are impaired, some temporarily, others chronically. They are young, they are old, they are drunk, they are blind, they are driving stolen cars with suspended licenses. We all love to cite the story of the elderly person who rams a convenience store or crosses the center line, because it makes for a compelling image. We're all familiar with passing the person going 50 in a 65 and glancing over to see that it is an elderly person peering under the top of the steering wheel, but the guy in the interstate truck going 75 may be just as impaired, and somehow the endless series of drunk driving accidents doesn't make for nearly as vivid a newspaper story. Or perhaps it doesn't allow us to focus our anger in as convenient a fashion.

It seems to me as if some of the eternal free-floating anger that sloshes around a culture has fixed itself lately on the elderly. Any society has people with whom it's officially okay to be furious, and right now old people are often the Other who is taking away our rights and our money. However, unlike illegal immigrants, bond traders, and people who don't belong to my political party, many of us are going to become elderly people at some point. Despite discussions of euthanasia, you'd be surprised at how disinclined a person becomes at the idea of shuffling off this mortal coil even when your joints ache and you're eating on a reduced budget and living off someone else.

That said, there are plenty of solutions, some of them more dysfunctional than others. My aunt had her license taken away because of a traffic stop and she threatened suicide, whereupon her son arranged to put her into a retirement community, where she died within a few years. My mother, on the other hand, when she realized she couldn't drive any more because of her Parkinson's, gave me her car in an tacit arrangement where I came and took her shopping and out to run errands once a week . . . for ten years. That was pretty tough for me because my mother was not easy and I really didn't want her car, which was a piece of crud. At 65, my husband got rid of his car and takes public transportation to his clients, occasionally renting a Zipcar, and every year I think about taking a job in the city so I can do the same. I'm not an impaired driver. I'm just as bad as I ever was. I just don't feel like driving any more.
posted by Peach at 5:28 AM on March 26, 2012


The technology to create a real-world driving simulator to teach and test drivers is so old, cheap and ubiquitous that I could pick up all the parts I need (including steering wheel, computer, screen and pedals) at Goodwill for less than $100. But the only software I could run on it would be something like Burnout, Mario Cart or Grand Theft Auto. There was clearly once a market for those gawdawful film projector Driver's Ed simulator machines. Why is there no market for this now? This would be a lifesaving and crazy fun project for some open souce programmers, since if it was a proprietary system it would be outrageously expensive for no particular reason.
posted by Skwirl at 8:08 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


We all love to cite the story of the elderly person who rams a convenience store or crosses the center line, because it makes for a compelling image.

Some people love to cite that. Personally, I like to cite the US Federal Highway Administrations' fatal crash statistics database. And I think the graph at the bottom of the page, showing that drivers over 85 suffer 12 times the collision fatalities per mile driven as drivers aged 30-64 is a pretty compelling image, myself.

An assessment of driving skills and graduated licenses is just as valid for the elderly as it is for the young; there is a strong public interest in keeping unsafe drivers off of the road. I don't think that this test is necessarily the best way to do it, but I think that acknowledging the problem and introducing mandatory testing is a start. I think that there can be a better test that can test the skills in an appropriate way without skewing the results due to intimidation. And I think that the intimidation factor of computers may start to recede; eye tests aren't fair to the totally illiterate, which was probably a problem in 1862, but isn't today.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:59 AM on March 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


The technology to create a real-world driving simulator to teach and test drivers is so old, cheap and ubiquitous that I could pick up all the parts I need (including steering wheel, computer, screen and pedals) at Goodwill for less than $100. But the only software I could run on it would be something like Burnout, Mario Cart or Grand Theft Auto.

There's got to be a Kickstarter project in here somewhere.
posted by box at 5:51 PM on March 26, 2012


Wouldn't this be like testing computer ability by putting someone who never drove a car behind the wheel?
Nobody dies if you fuck up your power point.
posted by delmoi at 12:41 AM on March 29, 2012


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