Local Elderly Man Gives Up Driver’s License

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home.

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22 Responses

  1. fillyjonk says:

    My dad is in his early 80s and he gave up driving a couple years ago, after concluding his peripheral vision was no longer good enough (he had a small bleed in one eye that has occluded peripheral vision on his left side).

    Fortunately, it didn’t take an accident to get him to decide that. Also fortunately, he has my mom, whose vision is still good and is still a good driver. And while their town has more options than mine does for people who no longer drive….I really hope my mom can keep driving for a while longer, because I know that loss of independence is a big thing.

    (There is a bus system in their town, with a couple stops near their house, and there’s also an ecumenical group that has volunteer drivers that will take people to doctor’s appointments or to go shopping, and Uber and taxis, and they have good neighbors. If I lost the ability to drive? I’d probably be totally dependent on people I know from church to get me places farther than what I could walk. Not many options here, not even Uber.)Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to fillyjonk says:

      My Mom gave up driving in stages: first she stayed off the high-speed four-lane highways, then she stopped driving at night, then she gave up driving except to places she knew. When she moved into a home she was ready to give up the car. I have reached a point where driving at night in unlit areas I don’t know can be a problem.

      I still maintain that the big market for small electric autonomous vehicles will be the aging Boomers. “Take me to the grocery.” “Take me to Dr. Jorgensen’s office.” “Take me to the rec center.”Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Shoot, I don’t drive on interstates at night if I can at all avoid it, and I’m only 50. (But that’s more a “my night vision has always been kind of poor” thing than anything)

        But yeah. Autonomous cars would be fantastic for helping people who don’t want to/shouldn’t drive any more, but who aren’t ready to move into a nursing home or somesuch.Report

  2. Michael Schilling says:

    Police said they offered him “suitable words of advice” after that.

    There’ll always be an England.Report

  3. My father had epilepsy, apparently his whole life, but the seizures recurred much more often in his 60s. There was some incident, well publicized at the time, of a person who had some event (heart attack or seizure) that caused him to plow into a group of people. After that, my father stopped driving. But then he started again. Fortunately he never got in an accident, but I have a hard time not judging his attachment to driving, even though I don’t believe it’s my prerogative to make such judgments.

    In his case, I think the main reason for my father’s keeping with the driving was the notion of independence that Andrew describes. My father probably didn’t *need* to drive, but he liked having the option to go where he wanted and when. And by the time my father was in his 60s, he hadn’t learned how to use mass transit. Using mass transit involves a set of skills that for some reason he wouldn’t and probably couldn’t acquire, not just because of age but because he was in the early to middle stages of what we think was alzheimers.

    One sad thing (to me) is, that driving isn’t really independence in the way that my father, and, I assume, most people thought/think of it. Driving requires a huge infrastructure and investment and work from others, and most of that investment and work gets hidden, so people think that driving is independence when really it is largely dependence, or at least a cooperative venture. I’m not referring only to the liberal’ish trope of “you didn’t build that,” but also to the notion that driving is as much of a social activity, even in some libertarian utopia where driving isn’t so heavily subsidized by the state. To me, that’s sad because that “social-ness” of driving encourages people to assume a sense of independence and autonomy and when they are deprived of access to that vector of independence and autonomy, there’s not much left to help them.

    In part, that’s probably just the tragedy of growing more dependent on others as our skills and abilities wane. It’s certainly not unique to driving and people such as myself who use mass transit almost exclusively are susceptible to the sense that it will always be there and be as usable as I get older and have more restrictions on doing things that I now take for granted. We’re also susceptible to believing it offers a kind of independence, even though it, too, is a heavily cooperative venture.Report

  4. Oscar Gordon says:

    Living in the Phoenix area has convinced me that autonomous cars, especially for the elderly, CAN NOT come soon enough.

    Everytime I wind up having to explain what an “addlepated fuckstick” is to Bug, it was a senior driver who inspired me to utter it loudly.Report

    • Why not buses? Or uber/lyft drivers? Or light rail or metro lines?Report

      • I say that because I have serious doubts about autonomous cars’ ability to make the micro-decisions necessary for safer driving. When we drive, as when we do much of anything, we make a lot of choices that ensure we do them well. To me, autonomous cars impose a systematized set of choices and procedures on an activity that requires much more deft handling.

        Also, I forget if you call yourself a libertarian or not, but I do sometimes wonder why some libertarians (I don’t have a cite, but I’m referring to people know online who self-identify as libertarians and also look forward to autonomous cars, #notalllibertarians) feel comfortable with a system that basically excises the moment-by-moment, day-by-day decision-making involved in driving n favor of a system that supposedly imposes a rational order. That sounds like the essence of collectivization of the sort that these same libertarians would protest against in other circumstances. And in those “other circumstances, “I think they’re right, and would be right, too, if they protested against it in the case of autonomous cars.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to gabriel conroy says:

          We’ve had this conversation before. People in general well and truly suck at driving. They suck because people are actually very bad with regards to:

          1) Situational awareness – most people can’t seem to be aware enough of their surroundings on a sidewalk or in a store so as to avoid impacting the people around them in negative ways, Put them in a vehicle, where they are further cut off from environmental stimulus, and it gets so much worse.

          2) Paying attention – related to 1), while driving, people like to eat, and drink, and talk on the phone, or to their passengers, or fiddle with the radio, or get emotional, etc. One thing they rarely do is actually focus all of their attention on driving.

          3) Actually knowing the correct action to take in an emergency and having the reflexes to perform that action. Or the correct action to take in non-emergencies (how many people utterly fail to signal a lane change). Or just the physical limits of their vehicle, and their abilities (how many people with 4WD or AWD end up in the ditch after every snowfall because they incorrectly assumed they could drive fast).

          4) Ability to estimate acceleration, deceleration, or simple velocity of their own vehicle, or the vehicle of others (or bikes, or pedestrians).

          Need I go on? In short, your moment-by-moment decision making is almost always seriously flawed in most people.

          And such issues become significantly more pronounced with age (among the young, and the old).

          How much of the cost of a modern car is tied up in automatic safety systems that exist solely to protect us from our own folly, or the folly of others?

          Autonomous cars will, at some point in the near future (well before we get fusion power), be better at piloting a vehicle than people. When that happens, when they become (statistically) significantly better (not perfect, mind you, just better than your average driver), you’ll start seeing them take over. And this libertarian is fine with that. There is nothing in libertarian philosophy that says a person should be free to pilot a 1+ ton missile around in public, as long as other, competitive options exist to allow for the freedom of movement.Report

          • Road Scholar in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I’ve made this point before. Autonomous vehicles don’t have to be perfect to be better than human drivers. They really just need to match a reasonably competent, rested, and alert human driver to provide a benefit. People entrust their safety to other drivers all the time — chauffeurs, taxi drivers, Lyft, bus drivers, etc. — and those other drivers aren’t necessarily that much better, if any, than they are. Just being sober and alert is a huge plus.

            That being said, I think the techno-enthusiast crowd seriously under-values just how good the human brain is at certain kinds of things like object recognition and ignoring irrelevant sensory clutter.Report

          • While I know this subject has been discussed a lot here, I usually didn’t read those discussions, so thanks for taking the time to lay out your points.

            I’m sure–in fact, I insist–that the faults of drivers you note are all too real. But I’m not sold yet that autonomous cars, and the system necessary to put them on the road, can anywhere near account for the on-the-ground, moment-by-moment complexity the humans, with all their faults, bring to the table.

            On the other hand, I once had a professor who warned me (well, the class I was in) against predicting that something is impossible or will never happen. So you might very well be right.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to gabriel conroy says:

              Today? No, there is still work to be done.

              But make no mistake, the work is being done.Report

              • Perhaps. The whole project seems a little authoritarian, though. But then, I support Obamacare, so who am I to talk?

                I mean that with tongue only partially in cheek. Whether autonomous cars will ultimately be a good or bad thing, I predict the transition to them will entail a lot of rough patches that will hurt a lot of people. Maybe in the end the roads and traveling will be safer, but some eggs will be broken.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                Show me progress that doesn’t break some eggs?

                It’s only authoritarian if governments, or monopolistic corporations, attempt to use the technology to limit freedom of movement.

                But if done with an eye towards maximizing movement, it could be a boon, especially in areas where public transit just can not be justified.Report

              • I admit I don’t really have an answer.Report

              • I’ll add this. “Authoritarian” was the wrong word for what I wanted to express.

                Here is what I meant. Implementing autonomous cars will require creating a system in which autonomous cars could operate. Just like having regular cars requires creating a system of roads and traffic regulations. That system for regular cars limits and channels the types of choices we have to make in order to move about. A system for autonomous cars would do the same thing. (I suspect that any system to emerge would not be created de novo, but would be grafted onto the current system.)

                I called that “authoritarian” in my comment, but again, I was wrong to do so. “Authoritarian” has too many negative connotations and implies coercion that is so brazen as to be different from what an autonomous car system would (likely) create. What I am describing, though, would condition our transportation habits. I suspect you, as a supporter of autonomous cars, probably think the change will likely be beneficial. I am very skeptical, but you may very well be right. And of course, you’ve thought about this more than I have.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                This is true for any such system that requires a supporting infrastructure. The benefit of autonomous vehicles is that they can operate on infrastructure we already have, with a few upgrades. As opposed to moving towards something like rail, where a massive infrastructure project would be necessary to install enough rail to meet the needs of everyone.

                Ideally, we could just skip autonomous ground vehicles and go straight to autonomous VTOL air vehicles. Such a system would be, in many ways, easier to do, since we don’t have a large backlog of manual aircraft that would want to operate primarily in the same airspace.Report

              • Autonomous VTOL craft for transporting individuals or small groups of them sounds like a LOT of debris being blown about.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Burt Likko says:

                The FAA is a lot less forgiving with regards to what enters airspace than DOTs are with what is allowed to operate on the roads.Report

              • I’m still skeptical about the “upgrades.” Also, we’d need a legal infrastructure to accommodate the inevitable injuries and damages that result. (To say that those injuries and damages are “inevitable,” as I believe they are, isn’t to say that the new system is therefore not worth it. It’s possible the newer system would be overall safer than the current one.)

                Also, I should say that when I said such systems “limit and channel” our choices, I should have added that they may also expand our choices, as you pointed out could be the case for elderly drivers.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                Self-driving cars limit and channel a lot less that other options, such as buses and trains.Report

              • North in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                Well heck Gabriel, the coercion will likely be pretty minimal. If auto-cars are reliably better drivers than manual cars (and they’ll always keep better records than manual cars) then as soon as they’re released into the existing road system insurance rates on manual cars will begin a steady ascent and rates on auto-cars will begin a steady descent. Economics alone will push most of the manual cars off the roads.Report