October 3, 2006

Wrong Way.

I’m taking some comp time from work today simply to catch up on some household chores. I had a whole bunch of ebay stuff to ship, plus I wanted to get caught up on laundry and everything since Earl and I are going to be in Philadelphia this weekend.

So I was driving home from work following my normal route. I am fortunate that we live near one of the local freeways, so aside from a few blocks of “city” traffic, it’s smooth sailing on the short drive home.

Except when someone is driving the wrong way up the freeway.

I had just jumped on at my usual interchange and had BT cranked up on the iPod. I was behind a tractor-trailer when all of a sudden the tractor trailer made a quick swerve to the right, into the shoulder. I immediately slowed down, not wanting risk damage to my beloved Acura (who cares about me, SAVE THE CAR). Then I noticed that there was a mid 90s Oldsmobile headed for me. The elderly driver, a man from what I could tell, was straddling the dotted white line, apparently oblivious to two things: he was headed the wrong way down the freeway and he was headed for other motor vehicles. I jumped into the shoulder, beeped my horn and yelled at him (surprisingly without profanities). I don’t know what I hoped to accomplish by yelling, as if he couldn’t see the car or the tractor trailer or hear my horn blaring, I doubt he was going to hear me yammering away at him from inside the car with the windows closed. He got by us and from what I could tell in the rearview mirror, he proceeded to drive several other vehicles off the road as he made his way up the freeway in the wrong direction.

I have a couple of thoughts about this.

First of all, I don’t believe that just because you’re elderly that you no longer have the privilege of being a motorist. And it’s just that, a privilege. It’s not one of your rights. George Washington did not cross the Delaware to secure a driver’s license for all. And that includes horse and buggies. Older people need to ambulate just as much as their younger counterparts do.

That being said, I believe that all motorists should be tested on their driving skills at least once a decade. Vehicles change, roads are reconfigured and driving habits deteriorate. Now I’m not saying that you should go through a full-blown road test with hand signals and all that, but I believe that you should have to demonstrate to a certified test official that you are able to navigate both local roads and freeways safely and efficiently without causing harm to yourself or those around you, and you should have to do this every ten years.

I also believe that if you drive something bigger than your average Cadillac sized sedan (read SUV) then you should have to demonstrate competency in being able to handle that safely. Yes, I believe that to drive an SUV you should have a special rating on your license. And to get that, you need to be able to drive it, park it in a parking lot, navigate a narrow street and parallel park.

If the requirements for maintaining a driver’s license were a little more stringent then perhaps we’d all pay a little more attention to what they were doing instead of yakking on the cell phone/slapping children/shaving/applying makeup/etc.