Wake Up, South Florida Boomers: We Are the People We Made Fun Of

That is, we are becoming elderly drivers:

Remember “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena”? Baby boomers who first danced to that 1964 pop hit about a granny burning up the road in her hot rod will begin turning 65 in January. Experts say keeping those drivers safe and mobile is a challenge with profound implications….

Older drivers who are healthy aren’t necessarily any less safe than younger drivers. But many older drivers are likely to have age-related medical conditions that can affect their driving.

A 40-year-old needs 20 times more light to see at night to see than a 20-year-old, Coughlin said. Older drivers generally are less able to judge speed and distances, their reflexes are slower, they may be more easily confused and they’re less flexible, which affects their ability to turn so that they can look to the side or behind them…

Many older drivers compensate for the erosion of their driving abilities by changing their driving habits.

“I’m never in a rush,” said Grace M. Sanders, 87, a retired secretary in Atlanta. She takes care to map out a route in her mind before she leaves the house. She avoids driving near construction sites. If it’s raining, she stays home.

Those of us who grew up “where the animals are tame and the people run wild” need to confess: we made fun of the way “old people” drove.  We hated getting behind one, watching them straining to see over the steering wheel as they progressed down the road at 20 MPH.  When the opportunity arose, we’d pop the clutch, burn rubber and (if we were in an uncharitable mood) flip the bird as we passed.

It’s our turn now.  And it isn’t funny any more.

We’ve been warned over the years.  One of John Stossel’s most memorable moments on 20/20 was his piece on this subject many years ago.  He used his father (who lived in the Palm Beaches) as an example.  He showed him driving the streets of Palm Beach, and taking a driver’s test at the same place on Military Trail where I had passed my road test and got my full license.  It was great nostalgia for me, but Stossel’s father actually did better on the test than the son did.

I’m inclined to think that the generations coming up will be more charitable to us when we creep down the road at 20 MPH, but if they aren’t, we deserve it.

And we’ll make adjustments too.  As they say in Texas, old coots never take the interstate.  My father used to take A1A to get from the West Palm Beach airport back to Boynton Beach, and I’m sure there will be those who will follow in his tire tracks.

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