Thursday, 9 December 2010

NOT PJ: Olden Caprice

_BernardDarnton This week Bernard Darnton conjures up social policy with a simple jerk of the knee.

I have come up with a great new plan to look as if I’m doing something about the road toll. Something must be done. This is something and therefore this must be done.

The legal aged-driving limit should be cut to 50. Drivers already have to pass a special driving test if they want to continue driving over 80 but people are still dying on the roads. Last year 116 people over 50 were killed on the roads.

Age has a profound effect on driving skills. Effects include slower reaction times, blurry vision and poor night vision, poor concentration, drowsiness, and worsening hand-eye coordination. All of these contribute to reduced driving ability and an increased chance of a fatal accident.

Another common problem with older drivers is lack of knowledge about how to use their cell phones. Sending texts requires their hands to be off the steering wheel much longer than it does for a young person.

While my plan only suggests cutting the aged-driving limit to 50, the School of Public Health at the Wellington School of Medicine has recently published research that shows there’s no safe age limit for driving. Due to a global conspiracy of journal editors, Zimmer frame manufacturers, and the people who make large-print playing cards the research hasn’t been published in a recognised journal - even though it was conducted in full accordance with the scientastic method.

Once my limit of 50 has been introduced I’ll be able to use the public health research to argue for a limit of 30 as a reasonable compromise.

In Australia, Victoria has cut the driving age limit to 20 with fantastic success at cutting the roll toll to almost nothing. National Manager of Road Policing, Superintendent Paula Rose, was asked whether she’d like that limit introduced here but she couldn’t speak because she was sucking on a lemon.

Critics of the plan to cut the legal aged-driving limit have pointed out the the number of over-fifties involved in accidents is no higher than you’d expect given the numbers on the roads, that cutting the limit would rob oldies of the chance to go out in the evening to enjoy a couple of slices of birthday cake, and that further research on the effects of reducing the limit is needed.

The fact is that we don’t have time for fancy-pants “numbers” and “statistics” and “research” while the carnage continues unabated.

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  1. I know your article was satirical, Bernard, but I have always held that older drivers (say 80+) should not be reasonably prevented from driving, but should be made to use 'L' plates.

    In my experience, as soon as I see an 'L' plate I instinctively go into 'tolerance' mode and I am prepared for the driver not to be as fast, as decided or as confident as other drivers. This am sure is a fairly common reaction from motorists to an 'L' plate.

    And why not a specific 'Old Fart' plate? Why an 'L'? so that 80+ drivers aren't stigmatised and branded.

  2. Dave, why any compulsion at all? If an old person drives dangerously they ought to be pulled over just like a drunk driver or any other dangerous driver.

  3. No, Dinther. Within reason older drivers should be shown courtesy and tolerance and an 'L' plate would alert other drivers to the fact that their reactio speed might not be quite as fast as other drivers.

    Obviously if an older driver starts crossing lanes, driving on the wrong side of the road, not giving way, wandering, falling asleep etc they shouldn't be allowed on the roads. I am not completely stupid.

  4. Agree with Dinther. Either one can drive or one cannot. Does not matter if you are 18 or 88.

    No need for L plates or graduated licences (just revenue gathering). You can drive or you cannot, no matter what your age. All should be held to the same standard.

  5. No, I think Dave's on to something here.

    How about a plate we can stick on the car when we're pissed, to warn other drivers to steer clear.

    Or when we've had a bad day, to warn other drivers not to piss us off.

    Or stoned, to warn them we might be some time.

    Or we have kids in the car, so can barely concentrate.

    Or have loud music on, so we can't hear you yelling at us.

    There's definitely potential here. :-)

  6. Actually it's clear that the general public as a whole have not proven themselves capable of being able to drive responsibly and sufficiently safely. Therefore, we should abolish private vehicle ownership, and replace the system with a tax-funded proliferation of busses running at all hours, to all corners. (Just joking, of course)

    - DavidJ

  7. I was going to comment on the new record of two hours from satire to policy but PC's right - an 'L' plate to indicate 'Liquored' is just the thing.

  8. The tourist industry relies on older drivers to drive large buses. Many are in their 70's. They have been doing it for years, however and so that part of the brain is well practised. One of my favourite earthquake stories is a driver saying : "well I live in a retirement community. When the earthquake started I just stayed in bed and then I got up and checked on all the other residents"


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