A pedestrian is in critical condition after being struck by an 89-year-old driver in Oakland Gardens, as was recently reported. The driver remained at the scene and no criminality was suspected.
Even so, it calls into question whether there should be an age cap for driving. There have been other tragic accidents like this in our borough before.
If an age cap was imposed, what age would be settled on? Eighty seems reasonable, but there are people more than 80 who remain fine drivers. That would be the case even if the cap was raised to 85 and possibly 90. It would be unfair to bar a person from driving simply because the majority in their age bracket was not up to it. So an age cap does not seem like the way to go.
Another approach would be to increase the requirements needed to obtain or renew a driver’s license. In addition to tests for vision, there might be tests for hearing. Hearing aids would be allowed. If a senior failed the hearing test, they would have the option to retake the test with one. That would get them to make the purchase, resulting in increased performance behind the wheel and greater safety.
But seniors are not the only ones who would benefit. We all would. Thanks to cell phones and MP3 players, a lot of us probably have hearing loss without knowing it.
Hearing is important for driving but is something that is overlooked. Think of the times you have stopped short when hearing a horn and what would have happened if you had not.
Reflexes might also be tested. That would be a big expense for the Department of Motor Vehicles. For the tests to be thorough and accurate, it would have to install arcade-like machines to simulate driving — and the expense would assuredly be passed to us.
They jack up their fees every few years, so we probably would not raise any eyebrows at the increase or hassle of having to hang out at the DMV, since we are already there for hours at a time anyway. And even that wait is a drop in the bucket compared to the time we might otherwise spend in an emergency waiting room for news about a friend or loved one who had been struck by a driver who had no business being on the road.