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Senior drivers threatened by calls for new legislation 

Editorial Opinion

The editors at were glad to hear from Mickey Mortimer, state representative from Michigan's 65th district.  We have been flooded by email from individuals who think that we should take the lead in calling for restrictions and laws passed to limit the driving privileges of seniors drivers.  This has been largely inspired by the July 16th driving accident of 86 year old George Weller where 10 people died and many more were injured.

Everyone has a story about being on the road when a senior driver was driving too slow or pulled out in front of them.  Granted, there are 85 year old seniors that do not belong on the road.  There are also many in their 20's, 30's, 40's and so on that don't belong on the road.  Mental and physical capabilities are the only factors that are relevant to driving ability and these are not dictated by age.

The call for more legislation against senior drivers is ridiculous on several counts:

America has become incredibly reactionary

During the summer of 2002, the national media told us about six kids that were kidnapped and there was this suddenly this assumption that we have a national kidnapping epidemic on our hands.  

Several killings of military wives also occurred in 2002, and suddenly the press starts rumor-mongering that there must be something mentally wrong with our soldiers.

Now, we see national news of a couple of seniors have had auto accidents that killed people, and suddenly we have a public demand for legislation that would stop most seniors from driving.

As bad as many of these incidents have been and they have certainly had an affect on many people, these incidents are seldom in greater proportion than they ever have been.  Bad things happen and they happen often.  They always have, always will, and sometimes similar bad things happen in close geological and/or chronological proximity to each other making the situation looks larger than it is.  

News program feeding machine

It used to be that the national news that was truly national could be told in a half-hour or less.  Now it must fill up 24 hours.  Unless I missed something, relevant national news did not increase 48 fold in the last 15 years.  

Few networks besides CNN's Headline News want to repeat the same stories every half hour.  But there just isn't that much interesting national news.  This leaves the national news bureaus with only a few options:

  1. Invent news
  2. Discuss the old news again
  3. Find a local story and make it national

The first would land them in trouble, and it has.  In the desire to become first, consider how many errant stories have come through the press during the '02 presidential elections and during the war with Iraq.

The second is boring.  How many ways can you decipher and massage the same old story.  If not for 9/11, many of them would still be discussing Gary Condit.

Most are therefore, left with the third option.  They must find local stories with great actors (preferably good looking ones), a terrible personal tragedy, a name from somewhere in the past, a racially provoked incident, or something that effects an innocent darling, and turn that story into national news.  

Who would actually believe that we would have ever heard one word about Laci and Scott Peterson if they hadn't been a cute couple?  Robert Blake never got this much name recognition when he actually had a short-run television show 25 years ago. The fact that Kobe Bryant plays professional basketball does not make his story a national one.

None of these stories have any business being in the national spotlight and neither do the seniors that had accidents.  They are just the latest fodder for the national news media to justify their existence.

Someone to blame

In many cases, we try to find someone to blame besides the perpetrator.  People love conspiracy theories and assume that if something bad happened, there must be a reason that is bigger than the picture that we see before us.  We want to assign blame for everything to someone, and it is seldom the responsible party that gets the blame.  Society and politicians get blamed for a lot these days.

We lose track of the fact that sometimes bad things just happen.  Sometimes, nobody is to blame.  But, when someone is to blame, why is it that we want to find someone else to blame besides the perpetrator?  Bad behavior on the part of one individual is not the fault of society, the law, a social group, the parents, or some local or national politician. Neither is it the fault of those that look like the perpetrator.  You cannot indict a whole group of people for the actions of one if its members.

We cannot say who or if anyone is to blame for these two accidents with senior drivers.  There may be claims of mechanical problems or other circumstances that caused or contributed to the accidents.  The drivers themselves may also be completely at fault.  These are facts that courts will have to decide.  

What we can say for sure is that other seniors are not responsible for these two accidents.  Seniors can no more be held responsible for the actions of others than any member of any other group is responsible for the actions of others within their group.  

A law for everything

Some people also think that there should be a law for everything that could go wrong.  Laws telling you everything that you can and cannot do.  And if you've passed one law and someone broke it, the legislation junkies say that the law doesn't work and you should pass a different one.

Nonsense!  A law is a law.  If an activity is against the law, then retributive or corrective action should be taken.  If someone chooses to break one law, why would anyone assume that they won't break the next one.

Personal responsibility

What has happened to people being responsible for themselves?  We not only have those who avoid it by blaming others for everything that befalls them, we can now look to the media to do the same thing.  

If either of these senior drivers are at fault, we call on them to accept fault.  Nobody suggests that either of them chose to hurt anyone.  But there are two possibilities for fault, mechanical and personal.  If there is no mechanical fault, then it is personal... plain and simple. 

Discriminatory legislation proposed

We've seen proposals for legislation against senior drivers that is nothing less than discriminatory.  Legislation that is based on age, national origin, religion, or any other irrelevant factor is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Many have suggested that driving privileges should be revoked at a given age.  Others suggest that seniors should be required to drive marked cars to "make others aware".

Nonsense!  As a group, seniors are the safest drivers there are and insurance company accident statistics prove it.  

Seniors quit driving earlier than they need to

We've been around a lot of seniors and while we've not seen any studies to support our contention, we believe that few seniors drive longer than they are able to do so safely.  In fact, it is probably more likely that seniors quit driving earlier than they would need to because they just don't feel comfortable behind the wheel anymore.

Our society already discriminates against seniors because they are seldom as vocal as other age groups.  Age discrimination in employment is hard to prove and is not taken as seriously as racial or gender discrimination.  It is however, every bit as prevalent as any other basis for discrimination.  

We cannot afford to let media groups do their backdoor dance; passively working against all seniors because of couple of local incidents that they have chosen to make into national news.




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