Via Rick at South Florida Daily Blog, Christina at 305 provides a story that's all too familiar down here in south Florida--an elderly driver hitting the gas instead of the brake, jumping the sidewalk and plowing through a plate glass window into, in this case, a health club. No one was hurt, fortunately, but given the circumstances, that's pure luck. Christina writes:
I feel sorry for everyone involved, but really this is a sign that we need more strict regulations on drivers licenses, because while it sucks to realize you are getting old and your freedoms are waning as you have a more difficult time getting from place to place, if your motor skills are getting that bad, you shouldn't be behind the wheel of a car.and she's absolutely right, but that's not the whole story. Lots of times--and Amy's got a story about her granddad that's terrifying--elderly people keep driving even when they know they shouldn't be because they feel they don't have other options available. Granddad's not necessarily going 25 with the blinker on because he wants to be a dick--he might not be able to see out the windshield, but bus service is so bad and so difficult to navigate that he may feel like he has no choice but to risk it.
Public transportation is particularly bad here in south Florida. The Tri-Rail is fine for commuting, assuming that you live and work near a station, but for moving around the tri-county area, the busses are horrible. That's not a knock on the people actually working for the transit system--it's a knock on the system itself. It's poorly funded and poorly designed, and a big part of the problem--which Atrios notes when he talks about transit in Philly is that south Florida is built and planned in such a way as to be hostile to public transportation. We're sprawled out, with lots of gated communities and not much in the way of retail/living space combinations except in some new developments in the middle of cities. Wilton Manors is doing a lot of it now, but there's some real question as to how well it's going to fill once it comes online on either the commercial or the residential ends. But it's a step in the right direction.
I'm with Christina--when it comes to drivers licenses, we need to be more restrictive, and older people need to be tested more often, perhaps even once a year as they get deep into retirement age, to make sure they still have the necessary motor skills to operate a car. But we can't just take away licenses and cars--we have to give them other ways to get around.