It’s the kind of thing that goes to the heart of what I’ve been saying for years. Politicians only care about the elderly because they tend to vote in the greatest numbers. If they cared about actually protecting them they would do something about keeping elderly drivers safe.

A 92-year-old driver is dead after the car he was driving the wrong way against traffic on I-80 went off the road and crashed, authorities say.

According to New Jersey State Police, Henry F. Sohl, of Oradell, was driving west in the eastbound lanes of I-80 when the crash occurred about 3:35 a.m. Tuesday. It happened in Passaic County. Authorities say the initial investigation shows the elderly man’s car entered the left shoulder by mile marker 53 and into a concrete barrier and electrical box. This gentleman suffered fatal injuries according to police.

Police units responds to the scene of an emergency.

Now this investigation is ongoing. But in my opinion, the writing is on the wall here. Any way you slice and dice this, the writing is in the wall.

What makes someone drive onto a major highway against traffic and not notice? If it’s not having your driving skill set in steep decline at age 92, then it could be a medical emergency such as a heart attack or a stroke perhaps. Or, considering this was an odd time for someone that age to be out driving a car on a highway, could this possibly have been dementia and would this have turned into a Silver Alert if not for a crash?

The point is, no matter how you look at this, you have to wonder if his advanced age was behind any of these possibilities. And even if not, ultimately the state isn’t doing any favors for elderly drivers by refusing to make sure they are still sound enough to drive.

Digital Vision.
Digital Vision.

Most states have stricter rules for elderly driver license renewals than does the Garden State. New Jersey has historically been very hands-off and that needs to change. We should be having yearly renewals beyond a certain age, and no renewals by mail beyond age 75.

By age 75 a vision test should be scheduled every two years, not every ten as it is now. And the one that is really a game changer? Starting at age 80 if you want to continue driving in New Jersey you should prove your ability in a road test every other year.

In the years in between you should prove your ability with scientific reaction time and cognition testing. This technology exists.

Instead, New Jersey politicians do nothing. Shame on them. Why?

Because of Henry F. Sohl.

Because of Hudy Muldrow, the 78-year-old driver at the time of the school bus crash on I-80 that killed a teacher and a ten-year-old girl and left carnage strewn across the highway on the day of a field trip.

Because of the 88-year-old woman who tried to drive from the right lane of the Garden State Parkway perpendicularly straight across all lanes and was struck and killed by an SUV.

Because it’s a fact of life that as we age many of us can’t do things as well as we used to. Reaction time tends to slow. Vision often gets worse. Skills decline. Not for everyone, but for enough.

Enough that asking drivers beyond a certain age to prove they can still safely operate a motor vehicle is perfectly reasonable and long overdue. If you’re a lawmaker who disagrees, you’re abandoning the very elderly voting block that probably put you there.

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