Elderly Driver Halts Train and Traffic
Mr Magoo Opening Theme
I grew up watching Mr. Magoo. That funny little old guy with eyes shut and coke bottom glasses, he always managed to run over something while driving to and from. If he would have had a real life elderly driver companion it could have easily been my mother in law.
Elderly driving issues can be a little sensitive to talk about. We don’t want to hurt our elderly parents or grandparents feelings by stripping them of their driving privilege or make them dependent on others for transportation. Neither do we want to get run over or put in harms way by elderly drivers. Maintaining their drivers license equals freedom and independence. Although they’ve been enjoying this privilege their whole lives, there comes a time when that privilege should be surrendered. When elderly drivers reach the age that eyesight and normal reflexes have slowed down, someone should say and do something. It is time to either voluntarily hang up the keys and sell the car or as responsible children insist that our parents do. It shouldn’t take an accident or the halting of a train to decide maybe they shouldn’t be driving anymore. As extreme as the train example sounds, it is a true story.
Several years ago I remember waking up to an early morning phone call. My husband rolled over in bed and picked it up. The caller was his brother and urged him to get up and tune in to the local news channel. Last time we got a call that urgent was on 9.11.2001. So, he immediately sprang out of bed managing not to trip over our two toy poodles that slept on the floor in our bedroom and scurried to the living room fumbling to find the remote to turn on the TV. From his brothers tone he knew it was important.
The news anchor was covering live an elderly woman driving her car on the train tracks. This older lady had managed to halt a Miami Train while driving herself to a doctors appointment. In doing so she had backed up traffic for miles during morning rush hour. Apparently confused while driving the elderly woman turned onto the train tracks and drove a ways before coming on to what she described as a huge blinding light. When she could no longer see she was forced to stop. The vigilant conductor fortunately saw the vehicle ahead and managed to stop the train 10 feet away from her car. What they didn’t disclose was whom the driver was. Imagine our shock to find out Mrs. Magoo as she is now known affectionately was my mother in law.
The police are called to investigate , a tow truck dispatched to remove the vehicle from the train tracks, and a crew checks for damage to the tracks. In the meantime Traffic in Miami during the most inconvenient time, morning rush hour is halted for hours.
The American Geriatrics Society reports that driving skills generally start to fade after age 75 (and sometimes as early as age 60). A recent study published in the Journal of Gerontology found that the number of severe crashes, driver fatalities, and pedestrian fatalities per mile traveled increases sharply once a driver becomes 65 years old.
Others that Shouldn't be Driving
My mother in law has been divorced for 22 years and has lived alone all this time. She has managed to drive herself , run errands and be punctual to all her appointments. The only thing is she is a creature of habit. She has never worked outside the home and doesn’t speak English. Sweet lady but if you ask her offspring they will tell you she does what she is trained to do. Cannot think outside the box, never has, never will. Coming upon a detour ... She did just that... Detoured right on to the train tracks.
I had been putting off writing this hub as I imagine some may be offended for what might be misconstrued as poking fun of elderly drivers. Mind you 66 is not that elderly in my book. I love my mother -in- law and I mean no disrespect . She’s a funny and totally dysfunctional lady. I have laughed more at her antics than I can ever explain here.
One other quick example would be her side swiping a truck and continuing driving. Well this other driver follows her home and calls the police. Upon questioning why she hadn’t stopped she responded , “I didn’t stop because I did not know the driver.” What ? !
It took an incident like this to finally take my mother in laws car away. Something I had been privately discussing with my husband as this was not the only incident or clue that she should no longer be driving. Her visibility and reflexes had obviously deteriorated.
As sad as it is to take someone’s right to drive away, we all have to look at ourselves and our own parents and decide when enough time on the road is enough. There are some elderly drivers that are physically and mentally sharp enough to continue to drive but other cute little old Magoos out there are NOT. Everyone ages differently and while a 60 year old may be substantially sick and on medication which might dangerously slow down their motor skills, a 70 year old might be perfectly healthy to still operate a vehicle.
Remember to keep an eye on your elderly relatives. And if you see the elderly on the road at least be judicious and courteous and give them the right of way.
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