As the population ages, we hear more and more stories of octogenarians and even nonagenarians getting into trouble on the roads. The latest involved an 88 year old woman crashing through the wall and inside of the house across the street from her. This happened Monday afternoon on Mountain Avenue in Washington Township. Authorities say her whole car went into the house. A 16 year old Golden Retriever was trapped beneath the vehicle but survived. A miracle that no one was killed.

Sooner or later these stories will turn more and more tragic. It shouldn't take multiple deaths before the New Jersey legislature does something about the problem of elderly drivers. I have always believed in re-testing beyond a certain age, perhaps starting at 80. It is only logical since it's a sad biological fact that sooner or later our skills and reaction time diminish with age. While so many other states are starting to put restrictions on elderly drivers and their license renewals, New Jersey is a holdout. I have to ask myself why, and I've finally decided the only answer must be the politicians here are too weak to risk the elderly vote.

Next I thought, what's a way around this? Perhaps if you took the qualitative judgment out of it, with one 85 year old passing a test and another failing, there might be less bitter feelings among the elderly. If all people in their late 80's for example were in the same boat with the state saying that no matter what, beyond a certain age you must surrender your driving privileges, perhaps it would be an easier pill to swallow. If the driving factor behind politicians' refusal to deal with the problem is fear of elderly voter anger, maybe a mandatory retirement age would make for greater acceptance.

I understand all the arguments about to be made. It's easy to reason that ALL elderly will then be angry rather than some. But my gut tells me if it were all or nothing, and doing nothing is not acceptable, that the elderly wouldn't feel so singled out. It wouldn't be the state telling an 88 year old that they were feeble, or lost their skills, or couldn't handle it. It would be a more clinical, black and white issue of you have simply reached an age where it is no longer allowed. The same is done at the beginning of the licensing process.

We have a minimum age at which you can legally begin to drive. One could make the same arguments the elderly will in reverse; that if a 13 year old is tall enough, mature enough, and can show their skills on the road, why should they not be allowed to drive? Yet no one ever questions the minimum age. Eventually people would accept a maximum age. Airline pilots have a mandatory retirement age of 65. It does not matter how sharp or highly skilled they still are. In the interest of public safety, you must stop flying commercial aircraft at 65. Period.

It's time to consider the same for very old drivers.

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