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By Paul Bendix

About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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Too Old to Drive

Uploaded: Oct 20, 2013
Everyone knows about last week's accident on Santa Cruz Ave. A 90-year-old driver. A six-year-old boy badly injured, his twin brother traumatized. For me, the event prompted some agonized reflection.

I am back on the roads after almost a year of not driving. That's how long it took for me to acquire a new van for my wheelchair. Which makes me one year older and no less disabled. True, a team of experts has examined me and my driving. The whole experience should be safer than ever. But in truth I am more paranoid than confident. I now drive the streets of Menlo Park, not to mention the Bay Area, tensed like a fighter pilot. I see danger at every turn. Which may not be a bad thing.

The question is – when do I stop driving? Surely this point will come much sooner for me. With a serious disability, as I age driving will become more of an issue.

And what will I do when it's time to hang up the car keys? Probably what I have done for the last year. Rely heavily on public transportation. Hitch a lift with my wife. Occasionally use a wheelchair cab. Based on the last year, I know I will get by.

But not everyone does. In suburban life, driving means independence. But does it have to? I wonder how others feel about driving and aging.

When do you plan to stop driving? How will you adapt to not having a car? Do you want improved public transportation? Let's hear your ideas....
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by MP Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 10:07 am

It seems that we really need to start mitigating the impacts of aging on driving safety, otherwise the future is going to look an awful lot like "Grey Dawn".

A fairly straightforward start could be something along the lines of:
- Road and written tests with every renewal starting at age 65
- Renewals every 2 years instead of 5 years after age 75
- Any driver (of any age) who gets a handicapped parking permit needs a re-test (driving and written) to make sure they\'re still safe to drive, and goes to 2-year renewals.

This would be a good start to risk mitigation, while still allowing those who are older but still safe to drive to continue driving.

Also, self-driving cars can\'t come soon enough - you can move to two classes of license: "Self driving car only", and "Manual driving", with more relaxed standards for self-driving cars with no options for manual control over, say, 10mph.

Posted by Allen Moench, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 1:01 pm

On Friday October 18 at about 8:30 PM I was waiting at the corner of El Camino Real and Menlo Avenue for the "walk" sign to come on so that I might safely step into the crosswalk and walk across El Camino in the eastbound direction. I happened to look up to my right and see that the traffic light for southbound El Camino traffic had turned red this was followed by the automatic voice that came on saying "walk light is on -- walk light is on --". As I stepped off the curb to proceed across El Camino I saw a bright flash of light followed immediately by another as two cars went through the stop light at high speed. These vehicles were likely not driven by 90 year old operators! I was shaken by the incident and contemplated the consequences of my having started my crossing a moment or two earlier as I continued my walk home that evening. I sincerely hope those cameras remain in place and the drivers of the racing vehicles are prosecuted to the extent possible.

Posted by pearl, a resident of another community,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 1:52 pm

You can report people to the CHP whom you feel should no longer be driving. You can remain anonymous if you wish.

Posted by SteveC, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

The city police sheriff are the law enforcement to report people to. The CHP is responsible for freeways and taking accident reports in unincorporated areas of the county. If a person is that much of a hazard, you will get a faster response from the police.

Posted by Mark Gilles, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights,
on Oct 21, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Actually, reporting an elderly driver to the police or CHP will not have any impact whatsoever. Licensing standards are the same for all drivers regardless of age. In the Menlo Park case, the police took the elderly drivers license and he has 5 days to be tested by DMV. In fact he has not been cited. The only legal jeopardy he faces is losing his license (if he fails his test) or a civil suit

Posted by ann haley, a resident of another community,
on Oct 22, 2013 at 9:08 am

I think older drivers should be tested for vision impairment, reaction time (very important) and hearing. All of these are important to good driving. Age affects all of these.

Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Oct 22, 2013 at 11:30 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

The State of California DMV has a form (see attached) to report an unsafe driver. A medical Professional (Doctor) has an OBLIGATION to report drivers that they feel are impaired. That this driver required a wlaker to move leads me to believe he was impaired.

With regard to testing a drivers hearing, my father was nearly deaf and required dual outside rear-view mirrors on any vehicle he drove. He had over 1,000,000 safe miles while driving locally for for his job at AT&T. So hearing impairment is not a factor.

Web Link

Roy Thiele-Sardina

Posted by SteveC, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Oct 22, 2013 at 11:55 am

SteveC is a registered user.

It is also up to the family to check on elderly parents and their driving ability. There are many signs when a person should not drive any longer.

Fortunately, both my parents decided on their own that they should no longer be driving. No, I was not a serious accident.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Oct 22, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is a very useful link for older drivers and their families:

Web Link

"Older Driver Safety
Warning Signs and Knowing When to Stop

Safe Senior Citizen Driving
As we age, it's normal for our driving abilities to change. By reducing risk factors and incorporating safe driving practices, many of us can continue driving safely long into our senior years. But we do have to pay attention to any warning signs that age is interfering with our driving safety and make appropriate adjustments. Even if you find that you need to reduce your driving or give up the keys, it doesn't mean the end of your independence. Seeking alternative methods of transportation can offer health and social benefits, as well as a welcome change of pace to life."

Web Link

Posted by Brian & Lorna Heapes, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Oct 24, 2013 at 12:43 pm

obviously a man of that age shouldn\\\\\\\'t be driving when he doesn\\\\\\\'t have his faculties in control. Driving is a privilege not a given. Our prayers go out to the family of the victims and to the victim themselves.
I had to take our dad\\\\\\\'s drivers license away when he was 85 because he was
starting to drive on curbs and he accepted it without an issue.

Brian & Lorna Heapes of Menlo Park

Posted by Stu Soffer, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Oct 25, 2013 at 10:18 am

Stu Soffer is a registered user.

There is a problem here.

In our own experience my father had his license yanked by the police some years ago. I'm glad they did before anything happened. You didn't need any license plate readers to identify his car. Similarly my uncle had a car crash on El Camino, and father-in-law this past year sustained a mini-stroke while driving. It's a difficult time for the folks involved to give up their independence when the feel 'I drive just fine.' Perhaps they do, but they put themselves and others at risk. Who knows how I'll feel about it when it's my ability to drive.

I can see routine screening drivers above a certain age.

Roy and I as pilots are routinely screened both medically and for proficiency at least every 2 years.

Which reminds me, is driving a right or a privilege?

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