Remember, gas on the right, brake on the left

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2006

With all due respect to you senior citizens out there, I think at some point, every elderly driver should be tested before a driver’s license is reissued.

And I don’t mean a test for the rules of the road. These folks probably know them inside and out.

I mean examinations for eye sight and motor skills.

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We have all heard and read about the senior citizens who crashed their cars into buildings, or even worse, crowds, because they thought they were hitting the brake and accidentally pushed the gas pedal.

The most recent one was an elderly man who did just that and ran his car onto a Starbucks patio. Then he backed off the patio, stopping only after he crashed into, and ended up on top of, a parked car.

At 54, and very close to 55, I have seen my abilities dwindle, particularly at night. I don’t see as well as I did in my 20s and 30s and avoid as much after-dark traveling as I can.

Losing one’s eyesight or motor skills is not something to be embarrassed about. It’s a natural process that comes with age.

I, for one, would subject myself to retesting if it meant having peace of mind about my abilities behind the wheel.

And while we’re on the subject, states should tighten their laws on reissuing licenses.

I recall a story my mother told me about a visit she made to my great aunt in St, Petersburg, Fla., some years ago. Great Aunt Ruth was in a home. Her roommate was a very old woman confined to her bed.

While visiting one day, my mother said the mail arrived. In it was a renewal for my aunt’s roommate’s driver’s license. According to the rules in Florida, all the woman had to do was affix her signature and send it back. A driver’s license would then be forwarded to her.

Scary, isn’t it?

How about this one? My aunt recently paid a visit to my step-mother in West Virginia. My aunt is 90. Unable to drive, she left those duties to her 80-year-old boyfriend. Not sure if that is scary, or just funny.

For those of you who have ever driven in Florida n I wonder if he had his turn signal on the entire trip?

Our priorities are screwed up

Watching the morning news the other day, I began to wonder where our priorities are.

The Today Show dedicated about five minutes to a story about Lindsey Lohan not showing up for work on the set of her new movie because she is out partying too late every night.

They interviewed her boss, a studio executive who penned a letter to the actress telling her to get her stuff together, and her mother, who, of course, took her daughter’s side of the story.

But why was this non-story even given any time at all?

It’s so typical of what I see in our society every day.

We have young men and women giving their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, and others coming home with permanent injuries. But all we want to see on TV is whether or not Americans have talent, who will pick who for a date, who can eat the biggest can of worms, who can travel around the world the quickest, what it would be like to trade places with another person, how many idiots you can get in one house without somebody killing somebody, and so on.

These reality shows prove, at least to me, just how much America has “dumbed down” in recent years.

The reason these shows continue, and new ones pop up nearly every day is simple. It’s what Americans want. Now that’s scary!

Grant is the managing editor of the Suffolk News-Herald. Contact him at, or 934-9603.