The End of the Road?

DRIV­ING: WHO DE­CIDES WHEN IT’S TIME TO HANG UP THE KEYS?

ZOOMER Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

IN JUNE OF 2013, this magazine pub­lished Moses’s Zoomer Phi­los­o­phy “The End of the Road: When Do We Stop Driv­ing and Who De­cides?” Keep­ing both jus­tice and prac­ti­cal­ity in mind, Moses ad­vo­cated for: Stan­dard­ized, sta­tis­ti­cally re­li­able driv­ing tests to be ad­min­is­tered not just to ag­ing driv­ers but all driv­ers at var­i­ous in­ter­vals.

Read­ily avail­able train­ing and re­train­ing pro­grams for all adults, as cod­i­fied by the Young Driv­ers of Canada pro­gram.

If nec­es­sary, a grad­u­ated li­cens­ing sys­tem for cer­tain adult driv­ers (sim­i­lar to the one now in use for new driv­ers) to be de­ter­mined not by age but by test score, so that driv­ers who are only com­fort­able with driv­ing in day­light hours or on city streets but not ma­jor high­ways, can con­tinue to drive with those re­stric­tions.

That we ac­cept the in­evitable when that time comes but with the caveat that the play­ing field be level.

Th­ese rec­om­men­da­tions are just as log­i­cal and com­pelling to­day, but they are a long way from im­ple­men­ta­tion. Pe­ri­odic driv­ing tests are not be­ing ad­min­is­tered at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals, grad­u­ated li­cens­ing spe­cific to older driv­ers is not to be found and while re­search is un­der­way on a screen­ing tool that iden­ti­fies driv­ers who are un­safe, such a tool has not yet been adopted by a prov­ince or ter­ri­tory.

As we age, our health in­evitably de­te­ri­o­rates, and driv­ing be­comes riskier. Changes in vi­sion, hear­ing, flex­i­bil­ity, ease of move­ment, strength, re­ac­tion time, con­cen­tra­tion and cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment can all im­pact our per­for­mance be­hind the wheel.

We com­pen­sate for our wors­en­ing re­ac­tion times with a life­time of driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. In ad­di­tion, many of us im­pose a kind of grad­u­ated li­cens­ing on our­selves; we stop driv­ing at night, in bad weather, on high­ways, in high traf­fic ar­eas or dur­ing rush hour.

But not every­one does. I know of an Al­berta man who kept driv­ing even though his can­cer was so se­vere he could barely cross a room. It took a fender ben­der to make him give up his keys. For­tu­nately no one was hurt, but that is not al­ways the case. I know of peo­ple who have been griev­ously in­jured or even killed by driv­ers not up to

the task. I was hit by an older driver who backed his sta­tion wagon into my bi­cy­cle, bend­ing the frame and scar­ing the be­jee­bers out of me.

Part of the rea­son this is such an emo­tional is­sue is so much is at stake. As Moses wrote, a car is a sym­bol of dar­ing, free­dom and in­de­pen­dence. We are loath to give it up. What’s more, with­out al­ter­na­tives, los­ing our licence may mean we lose our ac­tual free­dom. This isn’t triv­ial; los­ing a licence can lead to lone­li­ness, de­pres­sion and so­cial iso­la­tion. This prob­lem is es­pe­cially com­pounded if the per­son lives in a ru­ral or re­mote area.

There are other op­tions. In many cities around the world, peo­ple hap­pily sur­vive with­out ever owning a car. Those of us who have ven­tured out­side of North Amer­ica re­al­ize most of our tran­sit sys­tems fall short when com­pared to those in other parts of the world. A brief look at com­par­a­tive rapid tran­sit sta­tions by pop­u­la­tion brings that point home.

While tran­sit plan­ners of­ten develop ro­bust plans, lack of fund­ing can pose an in­sur­mount­able bar­rier to im­ple­ment­ing them. Yet, when Toronto Mayor John Tory floated tolls to pay for des­per­ately needed tran­sit in­fra­struc­ture, the prov­ince ki­boshed it. Why is it stan­dard prac­tice to ex­pect direct con­tri­bu­tions from pub­lic tran­sit users but un­think­able to ask driv­ers to pay di­rectly for build­ing and main­tain­ing the roads they use for pri­vate travel?

Why do we protest against in­creased lo­cal taxes for tran­sit when good tran­sit and mod­ern com­mu­nity ameni­ties demon­stra­bly im­prove qual­ity of life – and prop­erty val­ues?

And why do non-tran­sit users com­plain about hav­ing to fund tran­sit? Ar­dent driv­ers should be the keen­est sup­port­ers of tran­sit in­vest­ment; well-funded tran­sit means more peo­ple on sub­ways and less traf­fic on the road.

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