Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Older drivers and accidents: Don't discriminate based on age.
July 21, 2003 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Lock 'im up. For a long time. That's what I say you do with anyone who commits multiple counts of vehicular manslaughter (in this case, ten). But will this driver even be charged, or will we just let him be? After all, he's 86. We, as a society, can't make this nice old man spend the rest of his days in prison, if convicted? Sure, the public discussion regarding his age in this horrible tragedy centers around the right of older people to continue driving without testing their ability and senses, but I want to focus on this: What's the unwritten age limit on convicting and sentencing someone like Russell Weller?
posted by msacheson (102 comments total)

 
The oldest person on record is, what, like 120? Let's assume so.

So, yeah, 120.
posted by jon_kill at 1:58 PM on July 21, 2003


None, as far as I'm concerned. If it means putting him in a "home" for the rest of his life, rather than prison, then fine. But committed a crime... what else do you need?
posted by Witty at 1:59 PM on July 21, 2003


I don't think I understand why you want to focus on something that's not an issue in this case, at this time. Once the police / DAs have determined there's an actual criminal charge to be laid, there may be some consideration given to Russell Weller on account of his age, but at this point, that bridge is yet to even be built.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:03 PM on July 21, 2003


"unwritten age limit"? Honestly, it never occured to me that there would even be one, especially in a case like this. He killed ten people...
posted by JollyWanker at 2:05 PM on July 21, 2003


There are several factors that have to be weighed by the authorities in choosing how to proceed, not the least of which is intent. It's likely that this man did not intend to injure anyone and there is no indication that he was driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (prescribed or otherwise). Providing he was properly licensed and in the absence of aggravating circumstances, it's far from clear whether or not they can charge with with anything more serious than a traffic violation.

I know you want to focus on sentencing guidelines (formal or implicit) for the elderly, but this is a poor example. In a discussion of criminal law it's helpful to first have a criminal.

Or, just maybe... he was a homicidal maniac, who said, "Hell, I can mow down a few dozen folks... who's gonna put a sweet old guy like me in jail?"
posted by cedar at 2:07 PM on July 21, 2003


The issue of age and driving was examined over at Andy's site, which he posted on-the-spot updates to right after it happened. The consensus seems to be that over a certain age, regular driving tests should be required (the details of that were argued at length).

Personally I think that after the age of 75, you should have to pass a driving test every 2 years to continue.
posted by mathowie at 2:08 PM on July 21, 2003


I've not heard anyone claim that Mr. Weller ought not be punished for any crime that he might have committed.

I have head a hell of lot of "hand 'em high" rhetoric I'd expect only in a Lynch mob. Give the man due process. Let the judicial system do its thing. If he's guilty of a crime, punish him just as anyone else would be punished.

But refrain from acting as judge, jury, and executioner.

And don't condem an entire segment of the population based simply on the actions of one man. If you're going to advocate mandatory on-the-road testing in order for Senior Citizens to renew their licenses, require it of all age groups.

Better yet, tie the right to drive to driving performance. If you have X tickets in Y years, or if you have a certain number accidents in a certain period of time, you lose your right to drive, no matter whether you're eighteen or eighty.

The discussion regarding this tragedy needs more thoughful discussion and less passionate debate.
posted by jdroth at 2:08 PM on July 21, 2003


head a hell of lot

sigh

Of all the times not to spellcheck...
posted by jdroth at 2:09 PM on July 21, 2003


I seriously doubt there was any criminal intent, he's just old and made a mistake that anyone, of any age, could have made. I feel sorry for him, really, imagine the guilt, being responsible for ten deaths that you didn't intend to cause.
posted by Grod at 2:10 PM on July 21, 2003


What makes you think he's a "nice old man"? He might be an old git. And anyway even if he is old and nice, what difference does that make? If you take on the responsibility of driving then you have to face the consequences if you screw up.
posted by squealy at 2:10 PM on July 21, 2003


They finally knew my grandfather needed to stop when they caught him driving in the gorge between St. George Utah and Las Vegas NV.... on the wrong side of the divider. At night. I am still unsure how that did not lead to at least several deaths, and I'm sure anyone else here who's driven that stretch knows what I mean. It turned out he had an Alzhiemer's like disease.

If he had hurt or killed someone in this case, it wouldn't have been out of anything but sheer confusion, one that he at the time probably didn't even understand he was operating under the influence of. It's different than, say, a DUI or recklessness, because faculties you've learned to trust over a lifetime suddenly aren't worth of it. Sending my grandfather -- or our friend Russell Weller -- to prison would only compound the tragedy. If Weller is the kind of person my grandfather was, when he has understood what happened, he will feel tormented anyway.

Perhaps there are other methods of trying to make amends. Weller can't restore the lives his act took... perhaps he could serve as an advocate for regular testing, or for alternate modes of transportation for the elderly.
posted by weston at 2:10 PM on July 21, 2003


Isn't failure to control the vehicle a crime? And if it results in the death of another person, isn't it manslaughter? I mean, if the man admits that he may have hit the gas instead of the brake...

Plus, why didn't this guy HIT THE BRAKE after he realized that "he may have hit the gas"? I don't understand how a person that has his/her wits about them, with a reasonable ability to operate a motor vehicle can "barrel" down a crowded (and closed) avenue full of people and NOT do a better job of stopping the car.... ya'know, before striking upwards of 70 people, killing 10.
posted by Witty at 2:13 PM on July 21, 2003


The law requires a driver to renew his or her licence on reaching the age of 70 and every three years thereafter.

- This appears to be the situation in the U.K, seems eminently sensible to me. However, would it have prevented a terrible accident like this from happening, I am afraid the jury is out on that one.
posted by johnnyboy at 2:16 PM on July 21, 2003


He killed ten people...

One more thing about this: while the elderly are a particular problem here because of decaying faculties, anybody can accidentally kill 10 people with an automobile by a moment of poor judgement on a busy freeway. If you drive, I don't care how good you are, you're only human and that kind of stuff can happen.

The courts will, of course, have to decide if this was an accident or not, and that's what this hangs on.
posted by weston at 2:16 PM on July 21, 2003


mandatory reaction and vision tests, every two years after age 60. every year after age 70.

course the AARP would have a fit. and the auto industry too, probably.

but our driving regulations/qualifications are way too lax. many, many people who have absolutely no business piloting a huge, lethal chunk of glass and metal at 75 mph.

weston - wow, that's one place you do not want to drive wrong, even sober in daylight.
posted by gottabefunky at 2:17 PM on July 21, 2003


He's suspected of killing 10 people.

If he was a very repentant 18-year-old would you be arguing against charging him with manslaughter (if not something more severe)?

Just because he's old doesn't mean he gets a "get out of jail free" card. He should know better than to drive if he gets the gas pedal and the brake confused.

And, to address the post, there should be some sort of sliding scale on how often one is required to get their driver's license renewed. This could possibly be tied to either their past performance or to their driving record.

I.e. if someone is 90, and they've passed their last x number of tests with high marks, then they're only going to be required to get their license renewed every y number of years.

On the other hand, if they've had lots of accidents, or if they've consistently scored marginally in their tests, then maybe they have to get it renewed every year (or every 6 months). Or, in pathological cases, they just get their license yanked.

Also, I doubt, very strongly, that actual intent is needed to convict someone of vehicular manslaughter. Except for that woman who ran over (and over) her husband in a parking lot, who intends to mow someone over?
posted by bshort at 2:18 PM on July 21, 2003


"they caught him driving in the gorge between St. George Utah and Las Vegas NV.... on the wrong side of the divider. At night."

Christ. I hate the Virgin River Gorge at high noon, let alone at night.

gottabefunky is spot-on.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:20 PM on July 21, 2003


What makes you think he's a "nice old man"?

His family, neighbors and friends have all said so.

It was just one of those things that happen there's no solution or justice Americans are so fond of, shit happens. We allready have the worlds highest per-capita in jail adding an old man won't bring back the dead.
posted by stbalbach at 2:21 PM on July 21, 2003


Um, actually one of the survivors was on the LA news a few days ago, and she was pretty angry that people thought he was just a poor old man who made a mistake and felt horrible. Apparently he got out of his car, passed her sitting in a pool of her own blood, crying for a doctor and told her something along the lines of "You saw me coming, you should have just gotten out of the way", and WALKED BY HER.

Cars can be a dangerous weapon. I put myself in a wheelchair for 6 mo and endangered the lives of my two best friends in a freak car accident (we were the only car, there was a weird hole in the road that I didn't see at night). So I know that people can make driving mistakes with horrible consequences. But, in this case? I've got little sympathy for him.
posted by synapse at 2:24 PM on July 21, 2003


Can we stop saying stuff like, "This could happen to anyone regardless of age"? We know that. You're just brushing aside the fact that the elderly have a much more difficult time operating a motor vehicle in the kinds of driving environments that are present today, than do people half their age. It's not something you can ignore.

My grandmother won't/can't drive in D.C's rush "hour" because it's (admittedly) too much for her... too fast, too crowded, too everything.
posted by Witty at 2:27 PM on July 21, 2003


FarkFilter.

Better yet, A.M.RadioFilter.
posted by solistrato at 2:30 PM on July 21, 2003


made a mistake that anyone, of any age, could have made

No, this is simply not the case. My office is about a block from the farmer's market, and I shop there pretty much weekly (not last week, thank god). I still fail to understand how this happened. Not only is the entrance very clearly marked and blocked off, but he went 3 1/2 blocks through the market. It wasn't as if he plowed into a large group of concentrated people and 10 died, he drove right down the middle of a closed-off street for 3.5 blocks at high speeds. A person of sound mental facilities could not have done that.

Age is a major issue for drivers, most states with high elderly populations have much more strict standards (road tests every other year; Doctors must inform the DMV if their patients are not of sound mind or faculties, etc.

Whether or not he should be charged, I'm not sure, all the facts are not in. If he was (as the local news reported) fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run (supposedly he sideswiped another vehicle a few minutes prior) it changes things significantly. If there was no vehicle error, and he was mentally unsound enough to drive almost a 1/3 of a mile through a huge group of people and stands, then he shouldn't have been behind the wheel in the first place, and by driving must have known that he was something of a risk to others. I don't know. All the facts are not in, and still no one has explained exactly how this happened.
posted by cell divide at 2:31 PM on July 21, 2003


94-year-old peer (British Lord) passes driving test - at first attempt...

When Lord Renton was a young man, driving licences were not a legal requirement until March 1934. They were not introduced formally until a year later, together with L-plates and provisional licences.
posted by dash_slot- at 2:31 PM on July 21, 2003


His family, neighbors and friends have all said so.

Well they would say that, wouldn't they? Nah, just kidding, but that information wasn't in the original post.

Regarding the UK situation on age and driving, whilst drivers are made to reapply for their license at 70 and every three years after that, it makes no difference if they're allowed to assess their own ability. I'd like to see compulsory retests for elderly drivers, and also for those convicted of any serious driving offences whatever their age, but then I'm very anti-car.
posted by squealy at 2:33 PM on July 21, 2003


Grod, you're not the only one who feels sorry for the man. This NPR commentator is with you, and with good reason. I feel sorry for her, sounds like she lost her life when she accidently took another's.
posted by donnagirl at 2:33 PM on July 21, 2003


Witty, you're right: the elderly generally do have a much more difficult time operating a motor vehicle. And young drivers are negligently dangerous.

If we're going to implement a system which screens incompetent elderly drives, it only makes sense (and seems just) to widen that system to screen incompetent drivers of all ages.

If the goal is vehicle safety, then get all of the bad drivers off the road, not just the old bad drivers.

My grandfather was a nightmare driver when he was in his eighties, but I wouldn't want to ride with my teenaged self now, either.
posted by jdroth at 2:34 PM on July 21, 2003


In a discussion of criminal law it's helpful to first have a criminal.

Thank you, cedar. This story is absolutely heartbreaking on all levels and, for me, hit (you'll pardon the expression) close to home -- my sister and her family were planning on going to the Santa Monica farmer's market that day, and I just found out last night that a good friend of mine was walking there; had he been a block further down Ocean Ave., he would have been right in line to be hit.

But it seems abundantly clear to me that the issue here is one of (at worst) negligence, not criminality. For this to have been a criminal act, he would need to have been acting with criminal intent (e.g., he wanted to slam his car into the market to cause harm) or to have happened in the course of another criminal act (e.g., while committing a robbery or driving while impaired). This appears to be a terrible, heart-wrenching accident. Do I think there ought to be more stringent testing for elderly drivers? Yes, by all means. (And while we're implementing those new testing stands, let's simultaneously implement better public transportation options in L.A. [and elsewhere] as well, so that driving a car isn't the sole source of mobility for many elders.) But does Russell Weller -- who has by all accounts lived an exemplary life and who is no doubt devastated with grief and guilt over this accident -- deserve to spend the last years of his life in an institution as "punishment"? That's indecent.

On preview: bshort: Also, I doubt, very strongly, that actual intent is needed to convict someone of vehicular manslaughter.

In California, involuntary vehicular manslaughter requires that someone be driving recklessly -- while impaired with drugs or alcohol, or speeding/running stop lights/etc. -- because that necessarily implies an awareness that the way you're driving at that moment could cause harm, even if you don't intend to do so. Becoming disoriented and panicking doesn't seem to be in the same league.
posted by scody at 2:37 PM on July 21, 2003


This guy wasn't old.
posted by sageleaf at 2:45 PM on July 21, 2003


weston: "Perhaps there are other methods of trying to make amends. Weller can't restore the lives his act took... perhaps he could serve as an advocate for regular testing, or for alternate modes of transportation for the elderly."

I think it boils down whether one views punishment as punitive, a deterrence or rehabilitative.

Weller, even if guilty of a crime (and this is a long way from being established) is unlikely to repeat it and I have a hard time seeing him as an ongoing threat to public safety-- this, of course, assumes that he won't be driving anymore. As far as deterrence goes, it's unlikely that prosecuting him is going to prevent other elderly people from driving through farmers markets. At 86 rehabilitation is pretty much moot.

Therefore, any punishment would be solely punitive and I'm hard pressed to see, outside of vengeance, how prosecuting this man, without evidence of intent or negligence, would benefit anyone.

It's very hard to tell someone who has led an independent life for decades that they can no longer drive. We went through this with my grandmother and finally took her car away at 88 when she started parking in the middle of the street and couldn't distinguish between 'R' and 'D'. However, without a firm family hand in the picture I have no doubt she would be driving today (that is, if she was still alive). She passed her eye tests, she paid her insurance and she maintained a clean license for 60 years.

The AARP is a powerful lobby and God help the politician that advocates stricter regulation of aged drivers than is used for the general population. Hell, they're the only people who vote. The sad fact is, most times it takes an accident to convince them that they are not safe drivers
posted by cedar at 2:45 PM on July 21, 2003


C'mon, he drove a speeding car through 3 blocks of pedestrians, hitting up to 50 people and killing 10. While hanging him high would be overkill there should be consequences for his actions. I don't buy the argument that he was impaired by his age. If he was no longer able to drive he should have taken the responibility and stopped driving. If he was drunk he'd be locked up, not only for being drunk, but for failing to taken responsibility for his intoxication.

If he was so unable to drive that he would drive up to 70 mph through a three blocks crowded with people, one would think he'd have a clue he was a dangerous driver long before the accident?
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:47 PM on July 21, 2003


I don't know what to think. I don't care that this guy is old, if a 20 year old accidently did this, I think they should get the same penalty, I guess.
However, he had done something like this previously and so I blame his family, the government and especially HIM for still driving 10 years after another 'Moment of confusion" accident. He and his family KNEW he was dangerous. I feel a lot less remorse for him after finding that out....it really pisses me off. But still, is jail time necessary for an accident that was so obviously a tragic mistake? Is retribution necessary? I don't know.

Here's the video of the earlier crash...(sort of)
posted by aacheson at 2:53 PM on July 21, 2003


jdroth: I agree. All "bad drivers" (proven so by a bad record or whatever) should be screened more strictly. But I also see good reason to screen elderly drivers more closely based solely on the fact that they're old... clean driving record or not. Is that age discrimination? Perhaps.
posted by Witty at 2:54 PM on July 21, 2003


As I understand it, when a confused driver hits the gas instead of the brake the response is often to press harder on the gas pedal. The driver is under the (wrong) impression that he's braking, and when the car doesn't stop he panics and tries even harder to stop.

IMO, his family and friends bear a great deal of responsibility for this. He apparently had a history of driving mishaps that should have indicated that he was an impaired driver. While it may be amusing that the guy can't seem to get his car in and out of the garage without bashing something, it's a pretty good sign that something should be done before people get hurt. At the very least they should have notified his doctor, if not the DMV, instead of just laughing about how he couldn't operate a car properly.
posted by stefanie at 2:54 PM on July 21, 2003


A person of sound mental facilities could not have done that.

I'm sorry, that's just hysterical... mental facilities. Hah!
posted by zekinskia at 2:57 PM on July 21, 2003


It's not just an old age issue. There are plenty of people in their 20s and 30s who shouldn't be driving.

I vote for regular, mandatory reaction, driving, and vision tests for EVERYONE that wants a license.
posted by Argyle at 3:22 PM on July 21, 2003


We already discriminate against drivers on the basis of age. How many thirteen-year-olds do you know that have a drivers' license?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:34 PM on July 21, 2003 [1 favorite]


... that the elderly have a much more difficult time operating a motor vehicle in the kinds of driving environments that are present today, than do people half their age ...
That is a pretty poor generalisation. Many people mange to drive well into their 80's or beyond, maintaining a good safety record and causing no harm. Young drivers are just as much at risk of causing accidents, but for different reasons. The elderly (as a rule) have diminished eyesight and reaction times, the young drivers lack experience in what to do in the case of something going wrong. Different causes, same effect.

Here, drivers over 75 must obtain and carry a medical certificate to certify they they are safe to drive and the certificate is only valid for as long as their doctor feels comfortable with issuing it.

I suspect that, if this was a 17 year old driver new to the road, there would be howls of outrage against young hooligans. Can you imagine the reaction from the media to a young driver plowing through a market at 70mph? It would not be a sympathetic hearing, I suspect.

The bottom line is that we should all have to prove our fitness to drive. Does anyone really think that the test we go through as nervous 17 year-olds proves that we are capable of handling a vehicle safely in all foreseeable situations? All that learner drivers are taught is how to pass the driving test. Before you can set a wheel on the road, you should have to prove that you can handle at least basic emergency situations such as a brake lock-up or the car losing grip on a corner. When I grew up, we used to tear around the local bush tracks in our cars and learned a lot about car control without risk to other road users (plenty to ourselves, though). How many people know what to do when they lose control of a car? Very very few.

What does learning about car control have to do with this situation? I am glad you asked that. By making drivers familiar with what happens when something goes wrong, you can avoid a lot of accidents caused by drivers panicking and slamming on the brakes or other inappropriate actions. Simply by allowing people to experience driving in situations where they are not in control takes away the unexpectedness of emergency situations and prepares them for what they can do.
[/rant]
posted by dg at 3:34 PM on July 21, 2003


Yeah, I have to say that I'm with the "I hope vehicular manslaughter charges are filed" crowd.

Here's the facts as I understand them...and it's all based on various media reports...no first hand knowledge.

He drove *3.5 blocks* through a crowd of people, at speed up to 70mph. 70 people were injured. 10 were killed. Some of the injured are not out of ICU yet.

He showed no remorse at the scene.

He was trying to escape after another hit and run moments before.

Now, if he weren't old, would anyone be suggesting that a person who did that should be unpunished? I don't think so. In fact, if it were a young kid, who did this while trying to get away from another hit and run he caused, there would be people calling for the death sentence.

IMHO, there seem to be no conditions under which this man is not responsible for willfully injuring 70 people and killing 10. From his perspective, they were in his damn way, and by god they should have moved when they saw him coming. Frankly, if they can prove what some of what the witnesses report as his behavior after the destruction, I would think a conviction for manslaughter would be pretty easy to get.
posted by dejah420 at 3:37 PM on July 21, 2003


donnagirl, your link and comment are a nice addition to this thread...thanks for emphasizing a point made by grod. Weller and his family are no doubt experiencing a major crisis of guilt.

To all those talking about driving tests for elderly, I think that's an important question, but not the one I was trying to bring up. It's being covered enough in the media.

But I had a hard time finding any stories about the charges Weller may face. Two, in fact, mentioned it, compared with the hundreds (from world-wide sources) about the accident and the elderly driving issue.

Once I got the issue in my mind, I couldn't stop thinking about this. To be fair to the victims and society as a whole, he needs to be treated as anyone else half his age would. (Yes, the case is not closed, his guilt far from assured and no charges are even filed: I admit that much about my post is moot. Also unsubstantiated is my perception that charges are slow in coming/may not happen/light sentence.) But if older people are going to defend their rights to drive without testing their abilities regularly (when statistics show their accident rate per mile driven is as high as youngsters) then the possible punishments ought to be consistent with younger offenders. No double standards, here, folks. Remember: this is America MeFi.

By the way, I just found this archived CNN story from 1999 about a 15-year-old pedestrian killed by a 96-year-old driver in....Santa Monica. That accident spurred the (since-defeated) legislation that would have required "California drivers age 75 and older to pass a written and road test when their licenses come up for renewal." The driver in that case "pleaded no contest. He was sentenced to five years probation, ordered to surrender his driver's license and told to donate $5,000 to help Hayden win passage of the pending legislation." Maybe Weller will face similar consequences.

If that law had been passed, this might never have happened. Thank you, AARP lobbyists!

Whatever happens to Weller, how ironic and sad to see history repeated.
posted by msacheson at 3:44 PM on July 21, 2003


Vehicular manslaughter. Plain and simple.

We put this guy in jail for ten years and it will send a message to elders, families, and support groups. That's the way to save lives in the future.

This guy might be nice, but he still killed 10 people. As our average age in the US gets older we need to meet these things head on and deal with him as harshly as we would any adult who, for example, drinks and kills someone with a car.

This sort of thing is our future.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:46 PM on July 21, 2003


aacheson's link to the msnbc video pisses me off. That woman whining about how stricter regulations would curtail her freedom - fuck you, my life and the lives of other people on the road and sidewalks are far more important than your so-called right to drive.

And please, someone tell me how taking a driving test every couple of years is infringing on anyone's rights? Hell, I'm 35 and if that's what's would be reqired in order to keep my licence, so be it.

I've accidentally hit the gas instead of the brakes once or twice - and corrected myself immediately. No one killed, no property damaged and I didn't go any futher than 10 feet before I stopped. He couldn't find the breaks for 3.5 blocks? If you can't make a split-second assessment and find the brakes, then you have no fucking business driving.

Once, when I was driving, the car in front of me drifted astray in the intersection and ended up up on the sidewalk crashed into a metal fence. It was a very busy street and it was damned lucky no one was standing there. The driver, a 72 year old man had suffered a little stroke and lost consciousness. I had to take his keys away because he wanted to back up and leave. I suspect the reason he wanted to leave so fast was because he didn't want to lose his licence.


It seems that car ownership brings out the worst type of entitled and selfish behavior in people. Driving is a privilege, not a right, and it's not unreasonable to ask someone to prove their competence every couple of years.

on preview: what deja420 said.
posted by echolalia67 at 3:47 PM on July 21, 2003


Don't forget the detail that he may have been fleeing another crash at the time. That may well nudge this from "terrible accident" and "a mistake anyone could make" to "premeditated."
posted by ilsa at 3:50 PM on July 21, 2003


yet another perfect example of why we need dependable, reliable public transportation ... and to design cities around those systems
posted by 11235813 at 3:56 PM on July 21, 2003


grab a bus outta town and look around, 11235813. most of the country doesn't live in cities.
posted by quonsar at 4:04 PM on July 21, 2003


The talk of requiring the elderly taking stricter and more driving tests reminds me of the provisional licenses here in Georgia. The biggest part of the graduated license is that if caught under 21 and drinking getting you a DUI or driving 23MPH over the speed limit, no license for up to 6 months. I think its a load of crap as being a drunk driver or speeding like crazy doesn't matter if you're 19 or 35- the alcohol still impairs your judgement and you should have your license automatically taken away regardless of whether or not you're under 21.
As far as the elderly topic goes, along with not thinking youngens should be singled out for DUI's (though I do agree with other aspects of a graduated license), the elderly shouldn't be singled out either. Yet, there defintely should be stricter and real road tests versus driving around a few cones.
posted by jmd82 at 4:11 PM on July 21, 2003


I say if we are going to retest the elderly, we need to retest everyone periodically. I have been the bashed into car in several accidents, and NONE of them were elderly drivers. I have at least one near miss a week, and it always seems to be 30 something talking on the cell phone and not noticing the car (mine) in the lane they are intending to switch into (sans blinker, of course). Two people were killed in a wreck one block from my house about two weeks ago, and the driver was a sober 20 something who ran a red light. Sure, the elderly have more problems which might lead to not being able to control their cars, but there are drivers of all ages who shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel. Unfortunately, the testing wouldn't be realistic unless you allowed them to talk on their cell hones, blast their stereo, or scream at the kids in the back seat. Without the distractions that a great many younger drivers allow to keep them from driving well, I am sure most would pass the test ... and then go on being crappy drivers.

On preview:
As quonsar said, a great many people don't live in major cities. MY mom had to get her license at 65 when my father died. She lives in a small community that has NO public transportation at all ... no buses, and not even a taxi service (nor those senior vans either). If she couldn't drive, she'd have to walk miles to get to the grocery store or doctor's office, or I would have to drive 200 miles each week to make sure she had food to eat. What's especially annoying about there not being any public modes of transport there is that it is high in both tourists and seniors, both of which would benefit from having something to move people from point A to B safely and efficiently, but in such a small town will probably never be realized.
posted by Orb at 4:16 PM on July 21, 2003


on the contrary, quonsar, according to the census bureau of the united states, more than 75 percent of the american population lives in urban areas.
posted by jengod at 4:17 PM on July 21, 2003


Ilsa, nevertheless, I don't think it was premeditated. However, fleeing another crash scene should bring upon him more charges. But I think it's silly and irrational to assume that he did this on purpose.
posted by aacheson at 4:18 PM on July 21, 2003


I vote for regular, mandatory reaction, driving, and vision tests for EVERYONE that wants a license.

I wholeheartedly agree with this. A circle around the block plus parking was all I was tested with, and that was far from adequate. Of course more testing would need higher taxes and/or fees to pay for it, but I think it would be money well spent.

And I have to say, fuck the AARP. How many people have to die at the hands of elderly drivers who have no business being behind the wheel before they agree to regular road tests? A hundred a year? A thousand? How much blood has to be spilled before they realize there's a problem?

If you cannot tell the difference between the brake and the accelerator (not talking just an accidental tap, but 3.5 blocks of plowing through people), you are impaired. You do not have adequate competency to operate a motor vehicle. Period.

Would people be all about the sympathy for this guy if he was walking around with a machine gun and "accidentally" hit the trigger? The effect is the same...

I cannot comprehend the viewpoint that sympathy for this guy means the law should go easy on him. Sympathy doesn't enter into the law - the facts of the case, and the judgment of the judge and/or jury do. Justice wears a blindfold for this reason, people. The law is not supposed to care who you are, just what you did.

I hope his family does feel guilty. If they had spoken up, ten people would be alive, and many others would be spared debilitating injuries (how many of those will be permanently disabled, too? Let's see them as witnesses in court, please).

It's simple. You mow down pedestrians, you pay. And you should. Bigtime.
posted by beth at 4:21 PM on July 21, 2003


I just wanted to add, that if you are not comfortable with the risks of punishment for your potential actions (and inactions) when you get behind the wheel, you shouldn't drive.
posted by beth at 4:22 PM on July 21, 2003


The only accident I've ever been in was when I was in line at the drive-thru and an old man hit the accelerator instead of the break and rammed the back of my mom's intrepid. I've done some pretty stupid things in a car, but I've never hit the gas instead of the brake.

My grandmother, in her late seventies, ran a flashing red light at an intersection right next to her house, was t-boned by a Suburban and died instantly. I love her, she was sharp as a tack, but she was too old to be driving. Obviously.

My dad has driven professionally for something like 40 years, has gone at least 500,000 miles on the clock without an accident or even so much as a speeding ticket. But he is now 60 and his reflexes, his reaction time, and his judgment about traffic are all clearly deteriorating. Probably the best, safest driver I've ever met, but he should be retested immediately and again every couple of years, and if he fails he should lose his license. Cars are so fucking dangerous it's not even funny, and if you can't drive them well you shouldn't at all.

This guy might have meant to do it, might not have, but there is no possible way to argue that he should have been behind the wheel of a car that day. I find it hard to reconcile that this nice old guy could have wanted to do as much damage as he did, therefore to me the obvious conclusion is that he got confused. Since I don't see any sort of constitutional right to operate a vehicle, there's no real problem, in the mind of this card-carrying lefty, to take away the driving privileges of the elderly, the stupid, the drunk and the dangerous.
posted by Hildago at 4:25 PM on July 21, 2003


thank you, quonsar, for illustrating the problem perfectly.
posted by 11235813 at 4:35 PM on July 21, 2003


what's the point of locking someone up? to be punitive - i.e., the biblical/dogmatic "eye for an eye," or to keep that person from committing the crime again? i don't think we have to worry about this guy committing any kind of crime in the future (i'd be surprised if he ever drives again, but it'd be easy to make sure he didn't), and i'm not sure exactly who or what is served by locking him up - some abstract idea of justice? the "memory" of the victims? their family's need for someone to be punished? all i see is taxpayer dollars being used to fulfill antiquated and ridiculous ideas about morality. sorry, but that's just me i guess.
posted by luriete at 4:37 PM on July 21, 2003


Hildago - Excellent post. I think I'd take it one step further, however, and require people to be tested and licensed for both rural and city driver's permits. It just doesn't make sense that someone in rural Montana can get a license doing a couple of loop-di-loops around a cow and be permitted to drive in, say, downtown Boston.

No, I have no real idea how this could be enforced.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:41 PM on July 21, 2003


luriete: there's another reason for incarceration -- to protect the criminal from me. If this man had killed someone I care about, regardless of his age, regardless of his impairment, I'd track him down and shoot him in the head.

...and probably any of his family members that got in my way. So remember, sometimes incarceration saves lives more lives than you think.
posted by aramaic at 4:46 PM on July 21, 2003


...and yes, I'm probably a borderline psychopath. But hey, I'm presently a productive member of society, so there's another benefit of incarceration -- I get to continue paying taxes!
posted by aramaic at 4:48 PM on July 21, 2003


I actually kinda agree with the rural vs city driver's permits. I grew up in Wyoming, and have quite a few problems driving in a bigger city. There's just too many damned cars. It makes me a very hesitant driver. Scary thing is, I'm moving to California in about a week, close to L.A. At this rate, I'm probably going to be too scared to ever drive again. I may see if I can take a driver's ed class again, just so I can learn how to deal with a lot of cars on the street.

No real way to enforce this though.
posted by stoneegg21 at 4:50 PM on July 21, 2003


maybe it would make more sense and save more people if you were put in prison to protect all of us. admitting that you might kill innocent people who "got in the way" sounds like you're suggesting that you're a threat to all our safety.
posted by luriete at 4:50 PM on July 21, 2003


most of the country doesn't live in cities

actually, 79% do (according to the 2000 u.s. census --- census.gov)
posted by 11235813 at 4:52 PM on July 21, 2003


Segways, people. The answer is Segways.
posted by UKnowForKids at 4:52 PM on July 21, 2003


Segways, people. The answer is Segways.

Or more bicycles. I'm fortunate to live near a bike-friendly city (Portland, OR), where drivers are at least moderately educated about cyclists.

Still, I doubt a bicycle is a practical alternative to an 86-year-old man who isn't able to drive a car...
posted by jdroth at 5:21 PM on July 21, 2003


most of the country doesn't live in cities

actually, 79% do


what is the definition of "urban" used to arrive at those figures? is anyone who lives in a governmental unit which is incorporated as a "city" counted under "urban"? i can name you a dozen "cities" that are little more than typical middle american small towns. in michigan, "city" is simply the designation given to a form of government. but that was my mistake - i should have said "most people don't live in the huge metro areas on either coast". public transportation isn't as simple as it may appear on first glance to those who live in giant rectangular grids. public transportation in my city sucks, because the buses run in a hub and spokes configuration due to topography (a large river bends around the city on three sides, there are a limited number of bridges) to get anywhere, one must first travel in to the center hub, then ride back out again. in most of the small michigan cities i am familiar with, nobody would pay for public transportation, and nobody would ride it if it were paid for, because there are better and faster means to get from place to place.

11235813, my point wasn't really to argue whether some percentage of people live in cities, it was to illustrate that people (if metafilter is any indication) tend to assume everybody lives like they do and to assume that solutions that work for them are right for everybody. hence my invitation to get out of the metropolis and have a looksee. when i typed the line and used the word bus, my own irony escaped me!
posted by quonsar at 5:23 PM on July 21, 2003


No, I have no real idea how this could be enforced.

No real way to enforce this though.

How would this be any different from the way we enforce the requirement to have a driver's license right now? Currently, anyone can drive a car without any kind of driver's license, and they're only going to get caught if they get stopped by the police for some other violation. There's isn't a cop standing at the end of your driveway each morning to make sure you have a driver's license before you leave the house (at least I hope there isn't...)

So it would be the same way with rural-only licenses - if you get pulled over in an urban area and you only have a rural license, then you receive whatever punishment society deems reasonable.
posted by pitchblende at 5:33 PM on July 21, 2003


yet another perfect example of why we need dependable, reliable public transportation

Santa Monica already has dependable, reliable, and cheap public transportation. The Big Blue Bus is only a quarter if you're over 62.

This happened at the end of my street. That said, my street is about 5 miles long.

posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:35 PM on July 21, 2003


aramaic: and yes, I'm probably a borderline psychopath.

And you live so nearby! Remind me not to become 86 and run over your family.
posted by cortex at 5:35 PM on July 21, 2003


dejah420: He drove *3.5 blocks* through a crowd of people, at speed up to 70mph.

As someone else mentioned above, experts say that in cases like this, the inclination is to believe that you are in fact braking, rather than realizing you have confused the gas and the brake pedals, and to assume that the brakes have failed. In other words, the brain keeps firing signals along one channel ("But I'm braking! Why isn't it working?") rather than jumping to another channel entirely ("Oh, I'm not braking after all, I've hit the gas! I have to switch pedals!") So as a terrible consequence, the driver will probably push the gas harder, hoping that maybe the brakes will kick in that way. This whole process takes place while panicking or even in shock, often within seconds.

And while this may seem counterintuitive to those of us sitting here calmly tapping away at a computer, just because you and I can't fathom making the same mistake doesn't mean it doesn't happen for perfectly explicable reasons that have nothing to do with nefarious intent or complete generalized incompetence. Is it an "excuse"? Absolutely not. But it helps explain it within the context of not only his age, but also of the human brain's wiring in general, without resorting to the rather shocking level of brutal judgmentalism I've been reading here.

Look, I've no doubt that someone should have stepped in before this and taken away his license, which is a painful and difficult thing to do (we only managed with one of my grandfathers after the insurance company backed us up and said they'd no longer cover him; in the case of the other grandfather, we had to call the DMV and explain that no, he couldn't actually see the eye chart -- he had just memorized it). But this notion that somehow he's got to "pay, big time!" for causing a terrible, tragic accident is beyond me. The definition of involuntary vehicular manslaughter hinges on driving recklessly -- which means that you are willfully operating a vehicle in such a way that, using common sense, you know is likely to result in injury. From what I understand, this situation is simply not the same -- morally or legally -- as joyriding, or driving while drunk, or doing 70 in a 25 mph zone on purpose.

On preview: aramaic: If this man had killed someone I care about, regardless of his age, regardless of his impairment, I'd track him down and shoot him in the head.
...and probably any of his family members that got in my way. So remember, sometimes incarceration saves lives more lives than you think.


If this man had killed someone I care about (and, had a friend of mine been a block closer, he very well could have) I'd still defend him over murderous lynch mob thugs like you, no matter how deep and seemingly unbearable my grief. "Borderline psychopath" indeed.
posted by scody at 5:46 PM on July 21, 2003


aramaic:"If this man had killed someone I care about, regardless of his age, regardless of his impairment, I'd track him down and shoot him in the head."

Cool, you get the knee-jerk childish response to a civil discussion award.

Aside from the fact that anyone who speaks this way in public is likely a harmless loudmouth, it makes me wonder if your first reaction to tragedy is always violent. I also wonder what makes you decide the life of someone you care about is inherently more valuable than the life of the child who died today.

A truly righteous defender of all that is good wouldn't make those arbitrary distinctions... as long as your passing judgement and carrying out sentences on evil doers, why not head down to the courtroom and get 'em all.

Nitwit.
posted by cedar at 6:09 PM on July 21, 2003


Ok. You're in a front wheel drive car. You're going through a turn when the front end breaks loose and you enter and understeer condition. In one second, tell me: What do you do? In one more: What if it had been rear wheel drive? What if it had been an oversteer condition rather than understeer? What would you do in front wheel drive? Rear?

What if you're been driving too fast on a rainy road and you step on the brake and nothing happens? Quick, you're closing on the rear end of the old lady infront of you.

You're going down the highway, when POW, your steering wheel starts shaking and you've had a blowout. What do you do?

If you couldn't answer every single one of those questions, without pausing for more than a split second to think, you don't belong on the road, in my opinon.
posted by jammer at 6:17 PM on July 21, 2003


(And, beyond knowing what to do, you should be able to prove that you're physically capable of it on a regular basis, too. Or, at least, those who *are* capable of doing it should get dispensations from things like artifically low speed limits. :D )
posted by jammer at 6:18 PM on July 21, 2003


I vote for regular, mandatory reaction, driving, and vision tests for EVERYONE that wants a license.

Yeah, I could get behind that policy.

Scody: I totally understand the point from which you are arguing...I just tend to disagree with it.

It appears that he was indeed fleeing the scene of another crime, he walked over one witness who sustained substantial bleeding injuries and told her "You should have gotten out of my way", he hit several things and people hard enough that I can't believe he chose to decelerate and reacelerate without purpose.. and then he kept going .... again for 3 blocks. 3 blocks. Think about that. 3 freaking blocks! And he had to go through multiple barricades to get there. It's not like he just turned left and *blammo* there were 10 dead people.

I'm not saying that he deserves a punishment any more severe than would be served up to a teenager who committed the same "mistake"...but am I suggesting that justice is only served if the penalties are the same.

Age should not be considered in the court of law any more than race is considered. If dangerous drivers *choose* to drive, then those drivers should be prepared to face the common civil penalties for their errors.

And I would argue that were this to wind itself through the court and the jury/judge find that incarceration is an appropriate punishment, then I do believe that a greater societal good is served. It serves notice that just being old isn't a good enough reason to get an "out of jail free" card. Perhaps it will stop some other older people from getting behind the wheel. Perhaps civil actions against the people who watched him crash into a retaining wall would make families think about their responsibilities towards the older members.

But the basic fact is...being old doesn't excuse you from killing 10 people.
posted by dejah420 at 6:20 PM on July 21, 2003


I live in Florida. Last week i went out to eat, and while loitering in the parking lot on my cell phone i witnessed 2 older women leaving, one with a walker. the other was capable of getting around at least. it took the one with the walker a few moments to navigate stepping down off the curb.. and then they hobble over to the car, and the walker lady gets in the drivers seat! i couldnt believe it. her friend has a lot of trust in her.. she can't even navigate an 8 inch drop on concrete and she's -driving- ? what the FUCK?

its scary... they drive those lincoln towncars and caddies so their brittle asses wont snap when they smack you.

*shudder*
posted by shadow45 at 7:51 PM on July 21, 2003


i should have said "most people don't live in the huge metro areas on either coast"

I won't specify coasts, but 153,000,000 people live in metro areas of more than a million people. Note that this will exclude real no-kidding cities like Savannah and Charleston.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:51 PM on July 21, 2003


he hit several things and people hard enough that I can't believe he chose to decelerate and reacelerate without purpose.. and then he kept going .... again for 3 blocks. 3 blocks. Think about that. 3 freaking blocks!

But the basic fact is...being old doesn't excuse you from killing 10 people.


dejah, I appreciate your reaction, but I don't think I'm suggesting that his age is an excuse, per se; I'm trying to argue that the circumstances themselves explain the awfulness of the destruction without having to rely on the notion that he was a homicidally dangerous driver (a killer in the waiting, if you will) the moment he chose to get behind the wheel in the first place. I just don't think we can disregard the physiological/neurological side to the situation, as I outlined above -- perhaps exacerbated by advanced age, but still one at least partially independent of simply being incompetent or old.

In that context, I thought more about this issue of how he could possibly go three and a half entire blocks (and I agree, the magnitude of the distance is horrifying; when I heard the first reports on the radio I assumed he just smashed into one of the stands and halted right there) without "knowing" exactly what was going on.

So I did the math. The length of a U.S. city block varies from about 264 feet to 352 feet (silly me, I forgot to bookmark the site where I found that out -- sorry). So 3.5 blocks = 924-1232 feet. At 70 mph, Weller was going 1.17 mi./minute, or about 103 feet/second. That means that, depending on the length of the blocks in Santa Monica (and I believe they're on the shorter side, but that's just my impression), this happened in 9 to 12 seconds.

Nine to twelve seconds. With the brain likely firing the tragically wrong message -- "The brakes aren't working! Press harder!" -- once the accident starts snowballing out of control!

Given all of this, that's why while you say "I can't believe he chose to decelerate and reacelerate without purpose", I don't believe that once he accidentally got turned around on the street and started towards the market, choice or purpose really enter into the equation at all. Medical personnel on the scene and at the hospital said the man was obviously in shock -- that could very well explain why, as you point out, he walked over one witness who sustained substantial bleeding injuries and told her "You should have gotten out of my way" . Those are the actions of a seriously physiologically/medically disoriented person -- either that, or a sociopath.
posted by scody at 8:59 PM on July 21, 2003


what is the definition of "urban" used to arrive at those figures?

quonsar if you had clicked on the links provided and read the material, you would quickly arrive at the definitions of 'urban' and 'rural';

it was to illustrate that people tend to assume everybody lives like they do and to assume that solutions that work for them are right for everybody
and i was illustrating that such options needs to exist where there currently are none; this unfortunate incident illustrates just one of the reasons why the current system fails miserably

i grew up in a midwestern metropolis with ZERO public trans; now living in an east-coast metropolis with TONS of public trans; the effect on society as a result is more than shocking;

excellent related: suburban nation
posted by 11235813 at 9:04 PM on July 21, 2003


Cedar: I also wonder what makes you decide the life of someone you care about is inherently more valuable than the life of the child who died today.

In the interest of abbreviating my argument, I'll simply say this: I take issue with your use of the word "inherently" as it implies that lives have objective value. I disagree; lives have zero objective value -- they can only be valued subjectively.
posted by aramaic at 9:12 PM on July 21, 2003


If she couldn't drive, she'd have to walk miles to get to the grocery store or doctor's office. -- Orb

How about giving her a provisional license that limits her to exactly those routes? That what many American towns did for new drivers in the recent past — when you were 14 or 15, you could get a license to drive to your school and your church.
posted by nicwolff at 11:14 PM on July 21, 2003


The definition of involuntary vehicular manslaughter hinges on driving recklessly -- which means that you are willfully operating a vehicle in such a way that, using common sense, you know is likely to result in injury. -- scody

No, in California vehicular manslaughter is a different crime from involuntary manslaughter and requires not recklessness but only ordinary negligence; that is, that you be driving in a way that a reasonable prudent person would know was unsafe; what you in fact claim or can be shown to have known is not relevant.

Nine to twelve seconds. With the brain likely firing the tragically wrong message -- "The brakes aren't working! Press harder!" -- once the accident starts snowballing out of control! -- scody again

Oh, please! Try it now: count off nine seconds. Imagine that your foot is pressed down and your car is accelerating as fast as possible, and that screaming people are being crushed and killed in front of it. One (Mississippi) two (Mississippi) three (Mississippi) four (Mississippi) five (Mississippi) six (Mississippi) seven (Mississippi) eight (Mississippi) nine (Mississippi).

Still think a reasonable and prudent person would have their foot on the gas?
posted by nicwolff at 11:15 PM on July 21, 2003


Sorry, I should have linked "vehicular manslaughter" above to California Penal Code § 192(c)(2-3).
posted by nicwolff at 11:28 PM on July 21, 2003


I ran the numbers down yesterday, and pulled back because I was ranting. Mapquest shows that a block in Santa Monica is 440 feet, so, three blocks is 1360 feet. Furthermore, pedestrians almost always judge car speeds too high, and he wasn't doing that top speed the entire time -- he stopped at the end, so there would have been a period when his speed was less than that top speed.

9-12 seconds? Try more like 20-30 seconds. Assuming an average speed of 30mph, and a top of 60 (and a minimum of 0), I get 28 seconds.

28 seconds is a very, very long time.
posted by eriko at 5:15 AM on July 22, 2003


Oh, yeah -- California also has the concept of "felony homicide" -- that is, any homicide committed as the result of another felony is at least Murder 2. If he did, in fact, do this trying to escape another accident, that may well be the case.

I'm going to stop now, since I'm about to rant, again.
posted by eriko at 5:17 AM on July 22, 2003


How about giving her a provisional license that limits her to exactly those routes?

Because obviously, an elderly person with a provisional license won't ever become confused or have an accident if they are on designated routes allowed for them to drive on? How do we know this guy wasn't coming home from a doctor's appointment?

If they can't drive, they can't drive. Telling them they can only drive from point A to point B and nowhere else isn't going to change the fact that this guy didn't know the difference between the gas and brake pedals.
posted by Orb at 6:35 AM on July 22, 2003


Well, the idea would be to limit their driving time without making it impossible for them to be largely self-sufficient. If you can only go a couple of places, and you know the routes really well, you'll be on the road a lot less than someone using a car freely.

Not a great idea or an ideal solution, but a compromise. I guess this guy actually shopped at the Farmer's Market regularly, so it would probably have been one of his registered destinations anyway...
posted by nicwolff at 7:58 AM on July 22, 2003


nicwolff, it's a good idea, but for one thing...

My boss tells the story of how his 80-year-old father would get lost while driving. Neighbors a few streets away would see him driving by, wonder what was going on and mention it to my boss. The father was looking for his home, and couldn't remember where it was.

I think the folks calling for everyone to pass a test every so often are missing a point. If you want to shoot at the ultimate in "fairness" by doing so, great. But given that aging has been (scientifically) proven to result in impairment to eyesight and reaction time - if not actual cognitive function - why shouldn't those who are most at risk for these things not be subjected to additional testing?
posted by kgasmart at 8:25 AM on July 22, 2003


I don't understand why people get so upset about testing seniors for driving licenses more than testing younger people. The fact is, quite simply, that EVERYONE eventually gets slower, more confused, looses some of their sight and/or hearing, and reaction times get slower when they get older. It just happens! It's inevitable. For some it happens earlier, for some later, but it eventually happens, no matter how "quick" the older person is. Arguing that it doesn't happen doesn't make it so.

So, starting at some age where it's shown at more drivers get in accidents, older people should have yearly tests. Period. And, perhaps even more often if they are in reported accidents.

Yes, they can still drive without a license, but it will be harder for them.
posted by aacheson at 9:40 AM on July 22, 2003


kgasmart: I agree. It's definitely money better spent. I don't have a problem with the idea of "more testing for everyone". But it certainly doesn't make sense to test younger people as often as older people. I also agree that younger people are more likely to drive more recklessly or more negligently. But there is not way to test for that really. So we can't factor it in, for the purposes of this conversation. Everyone's eyesight is tested. But older people's eyesight fails more often and at a quicker rate than younger people... this is fact. Therefore more testing, more often, should be required. I think it's obvious.
posted by Witty at 9:44 AM on July 22, 2003


The last few commenters are correct: the elderly probably should be tested more often than everyone else. Perhaps test everyone every six years, but test the elderly every three years. Or something.

Yet, at the same time, if we're really serious about safer roads, let's include harsher consequences for accidents and moving violations. They're a good indicator of incompetence, too.

My complaint about this dialogue is that it focuses too much on a narrow segment of the driving population — a segment that is seventeen times more dangerous than average, true — when there are larger issues that need to be addressed.

We're very quick to condemn the elderly because a) we're young and b) we lack empathy. Why not discuss solutions that consider all incompetent drivers? That's all I'm asking.
posted by jdroth at 9:56 AM on July 22, 2003


" Why not discuss solutions that consider all incompetent drivers?"

When a child drowns in a swimming pool it's not an appropriate time to talk about preventing SIDS.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:12 AM on July 22, 2003


I live in Florida. Last week i went out to eat, and while loitering in the parking lot on my cell phone i witnessed 2 older women leaving, one with a walker. the other was capable of getting around at least. it took the one with the walker a few moments to navigate stepping down off the curb.. and then they hobble over to the car, and the walker lady gets in the drivers seat! i couldnt believe it. her friend has a lot of trust in her.. she can't even navigate an 8 inch drop on concrete and she's -driving- ? what the FUCK?

You'd really have a fit when you saw my husband wheel my chair up to the driver's seat and me get in the car and drive away, then wouldn't you? Or on good days, me cane to the car and drive off.

My disability does not affect my ability to drive. I've been disabled almost five years. I have never (before or after injury) had a ticket or an accident.

And an 8 inch drop? Try doing that in pain, on a walker or cane. It's very likely she has back issues which is the reason for her walker.

So, what should we now take licenses from the disabled and the elderly? Are you going to pay for someone to take me to the store, to the doctors, to anywhere I want to go, since there isn't public transportation where I live?
posted by SuzySmith at 10:30 AM on July 22, 2003


I don't understand why people get so upset about testing seniors for driving licenses more than testing younger people.

We've been young, we're going to be old.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:11 PM on July 22, 2003


SuzySmith, thanks for your comment. Isn't it sad when the focus on one group (like, say, terrorists) unfortunately also brings attention and deleterious effects on a different but law-abiding segment of population (like, say, Muslim-Americans)? You remind us to be careful how we judge people who may appear to be something they're not. Thank you.
posted by msacheson at 1:08 PM on July 22, 2003


My disability does not affect my ability to drive. [...] So, what should we now take licenses from the disabled and the elderly?
posted by nicwolff at 2:11 PM on July 22, 2003


[Weird — MetaFilter ate most of my post...]

My disability does not affect my ability to drive. [...] So, what should we now take licenses from the disabled and the elderly? — SuzySmith

Only if you can't pass a test that proves that your disability does not affect your ability to drive. Is that really unreasonable?

Are you going to pay for someone to take me to the store, to the doctors, to anywhere I want to go, since there isn't public transportation where I live?

If you fail the test, then... no! You're going to pay to get yourself where you want to go. Or, move to where there is public transportation.

Or, keep driving, untested — but if you eventually kill someone, because you hadn't realized that your disability does somehow impair your driving, be prepared to do a few years behind a manslaughter conviction.
posted by nicwolff at 2:14 PM on July 22, 2003


Disability is not the same as just growing older and losing your faculties. Disabled drivers, assuming their disabilities don't specifically affect their ability to drive, shouldn't be held to a different standard than anyone else.. that would be discrimination.
posted by Hildago at 3:27 PM on July 22, 2003


Or, keep driving, untested — but if you eventually kill someone, because you hadn't realized that your disability does somehow impair your driving, be prepared to do a few years behind a manslaughter conviction.

I'd say five years of driving numerous miles, disabled, in all sorts of conditions and areas is a much better test than -"around the block, then park".

There are a lot more disabled drivers than y'all seem to realize. And according to the ADA, (in the USA, at least) you can not discriminate against us do to our disabilities. Which means you can't make someone who is disabled take a driving test, yet renew an able bodied person's license without one.

Besides that, the DMV has no way of knowing I'm disabled. I can renew my license online in Virginia, without even seeing a person with the DMV. How would they enforce testing, since they can not ask if you're disabled?
posted by SuzySmith at 6:52 PM on July 22, 2003


SuzySmith, if you can't control the vehicle you're driving - you should not be able to legally do so. I'm sorry if you're handicapped, I was not attacking the handicapped - I have a severe problem with incoherent old farts who shouldn't be able to drive. it happens a lot here in Florida, because no one wants to take away their licenses. Accidents all the time, and sadly, old people driving into storefronts happens a lot. It even happened here again today, about 8 hours after I wrote my post this morning. My favorite Thai restaurant is doing some forced remodeling and wont be open for a week or so because some bluehair parked her 92 Accord in the non-smoking section. She said she thought she hit reverse. I don't know about her, but i don't smash down my reverse when backing out of a handicapped spot. she went about 70 feet over 2 concrete dividers and a carlane (parking lot of a shopping center) before going inside.

I made that comment about that old lady because it looked like her motor skills weren't exactly "all there". maybe it's senility, maybe it's arthritis - but it doesn't matter. if it puts other drivers at obvious risk, it shouldn't be allowed.

That's hard to enforce, and that would change a lot for the DMV and their processes, and laws would have to change too. but SOMETHING has to give. Come down to Florida, spend some time- and try to tell me different.
posted by shadow45 at 7:14 PM on July 22, 2003


She wasn't *disabled* so to speak. she's just old. old people that can't support their own weight need walkers, apparently. I work at a hospital and a good 90% of our patients are elderly. It's just the neighborhood- and a lot of them have walkers. A lot of them are so old and have such a hard time getting around, they just slide the walkers forward.. like this lady. she even had the so-common tennisball feet on it to deal with scuffing surfaces from dragging the goddamned thing around. it's sad. but as it's sad, it makes me mad that they just continue to go and drive (some of them) and probably not even realizing how much risk they put on everyone around them.

My mother's been an insurance agent for 14 years, and she's got some clients that are real bad about this. had an old man that had lost his license 5-6 years back for multiple incidents (due to him getting older and becoming detached).. he continued to drive until he got pulled over and arrested. he called my mother, as he had no family alive and knew no-one else other than his insurance agent. she came and bailed him out, took him home- the next morning he was out driving again. the cops caught him, arrested him... put him in a local mental health facility due to not having any family to hand him off to.

so with this guy not having a license didn't stop him - but this just gets me.. it's brazen disregard for human life by proxy of ignorance or senility.
posted by shadow45 at 7:39 PM on July 22, 2003


I have a severe problem with incoherent old farts who shouldn't be able to drive
I have an equal problem with incoherent young dickheads with the same problem. In fact, I have a problem with anyone being on the road without sufficient skills and abilities to handle reasonably foreseeable situations. Both older and younger drivers cop a lot of flak for their perceived lack of ability, but there are plenty of middle-aged drivers who have no idea what they are doing as well. The whole issue should not be about age or level of disability, it should be about whether you can drive a car or not. Anyone who thinks that the standard driving test is a real test of this ability is kidding themselves and the only way to ensure that all drivers are competent is to test them properly in the first place and then re-test them at regular intervals. Never going to happen, though, because the cost would be huge.
posted by dg at 11:21 PM on July 22, 2003


"it's brazen disregard for human life by proxy of ignorance or senility"

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Maybe it's a brazen desire to be independent. People want to be independent - it's what drives us out of the house when we're teens.

The ability to drive means you're an adult. Losing that ability means you are essentially a child. You're a child who now has to rely on the goodwill and spare time of others, the lottery of whether or not your locality has a decent public transit system, and whether or not this transit system reaches your neighborhood.

All of this in an urban landscape that is the product of 100 years of the automobile culture. It's a long walk to anywhere, and it's likely that you don't have the same strength and stamina that you used to.

I'm not saying that it's right to drive past the point where you can safely handle your vehicle, but all the histrionics about what villains these people are is really galling.

**

Additionally, where's the outrage about the daily carnage of automobile accidents in general? Every year we kill something like 40,000 people in this country in automobile accidents (out of approximately 1,000,000 auto-related deaths worldwide). It's a tired old cliche, but that's most of a Vietnam war (police action, whatever) every year. 110 dead people here in the United States every single day. Where's the outrage? Where's the spluttering demands to take away licenses, enforce stricter testing, and all the rest?

The conspicuous absence of this kind of emotion over the faceless masses of auto victims makes it clear that most people have to have some tragedy rubbed in their noses on the 5 o'clock news before they give it any thought. Where would we be without local newscasters getting on the national feed to tell us who the villains are?

God help me, I'm starting to sound like quonsar.
posted by Irontom at 4:37 AM on July 23, 2003


I agree, Irontom. To me, half the problem is American bumper heights, vehicle size mismatching and generally oversized trucks. One thing is bad enough, but the bigger the average vehicle on the road gets, the more likely a compact car is to end up -underneath- it. That crap was on the news locally last night too- some driver put his Corvette about 6 feet underneath a school bus after being 'tapped' by a VW Bug behind him in an accident. He couldn't really help that (aside from not being so close to the schoolbus, his fault if so)

That's what also gets me.. you always hear people saying they want an H2 for safety. Yeah. their safety, at the expense of everyone around them. lovely.
posted by shadow45 at 4:53 AM on July 23, 2003


There's a lot of people I want to kill. Oh yes. But I haven't killed them yet. Therefore, I am not in jail.

Here's a subversive thought: Mental and physical age doesn't matter. Whether you're intoxicated or not when you run someone over doesn't matter. All that matters is behavior, because it's behavior that kills people. It's the behavior that needs to be corrected, punished and prevented.

Say Russell Weller wasn't just old, but retarded, drunk and high. These are all circumstances that would make his intent seem less evil. Which is why punishing intent interferes with the ability of law to protect us from behavior.

Meanwhile, I just kill people in this manner.
posted by basilwhite at 5:50 AM on July 23, 2003


shadow45 -

Please note that I said nothing at all about SUVs. I'm complaining about hypocrisy and histrionics based on a media feeding frenzy.
posted by Irontom at 6:19 AM on July 23, 2003


Anyone who thinks that the standard driving test is a real test of this ability is kidding themselves and the only way to ensure that all drivers are competent is to test them properly in the first place and then re-test them at regular intervals. Never going to happen, though, because the cost would be huge.

If that happened I could agree with it, but I can not agree with picking out the elderly and/or disabled to solely test them.

The last time I checked we still had the same rights as the rest of y'all.
posted by SuzySmith at 12:49 PM on July 25, 2003


« Older Fancy a lordship?...   |   Today the British government r... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments