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A Thought Provoking Issue

by Dan Haley
June 17, 2009

A Thought-Provoking Issue

"A high-profile issue of the moment and a significant degree of public interest" ...

Saturday, June 20, 2009
Profiles in Courage
by Dan Haley
The tragedy this weekend involving a four year old girl killed by an 88 year old driver puts a knot in my stomach. Such a thing is horrible to think about, and politically dangerous - for a whole host of reasons - to talk about. Nobody wants to be crosswise with a grieving family who has suffered such an unfathomable loss. That is understandable. Perhaps it explains the response - or non-response, rather - to this WBZ email survey of our state legislators yesterday.

Every single member of the House and the Senate was sent an email with this straightforward question: "Are you in favor or opposed to legislation requiring road tests for all drivers 85 and older?"

The overwhelming response, by 33 (out of 40) Senators and 130 (out of 160) Representatives was... "Did Not Reply." That group includes both Transportation Committee chairs, and Senate President Murray. At least Speaker DeLeo had the courtesy to respond, albeit with a carefully-padded answer: "Looks forward to seeing recommendations."

Not a soul responded in opposition to road-testing legislation, but it is a good bet that significant opposition is in fact buried in that avalanche of 'did not reply.'

Some will oppose the bill on anti-government principle, arguing that mandatory road tests represent just another small encroachment by Beacon Hill into our lives and our rights. Others will oppose it based purely on political calculation. The senior lobby is powerful, and it views testing of senior drivers in the same way that unions view mandatory drug testing, or a Sox fan views Derek Jeter.

Set aside the debate for a moment (always holding out hope that this might be the rare issue that actually sees a "debate" on Beacon Hill, eventually). Turn away from the specific issue, with all of the emotion and tragedy and invective, and here is what we have:

A high-profile issue of great moment and a significant degree of public interest. A major media organization asks a simple, straightforward question of the elected representatives of the people. And the response of the overwhelming majority of those elected representatives is to ignore the question.

Is that not a problem?
Editorial Comment by Bobby Blair -- While Dan focuses on this issue at the State House, we here at the HollistonReporter.com would like to hear from you our readers. I have two elderly parents still living --  one 87 who has voluntarily given up his license, and my mom now approaching 83 years of age still drives. Mom is able to drive dad to his doctors' appointments, they both attend Mass each week and they are able to still shop for bargains at the local food stores. The term "designated driver" takes on a whole new meaning for me when talking about this issue. We'd like to hear from others.


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Comments (1)

I think it is a shame that this is an issue that has been ignored for years. There was a similar incident a few years back, and nothing happened as a result of that. I would suggest road tests every ten years for all drivers, personally, not just vision tests. Age is a random cut-off, although slowing reflexes, ailing eyesight and hearing, and medications are an increasingly major issue in our older citizens -- starting much younger than 85 for a good percentage. Things such as alcohol too are an issue in older people, who process alcohol much slower than someone in their 30's, get drunk on much less, and don't realize it. In my opinion, 85 is just way too old to be starting road testing. I have been driving for 25 years, and have not once, not a single day, taken it for granted. It is a privilege, not a right. My father stopped driving by choice when his Parkinson's became a problem -- he was 70. My mother took my grandmother's license away when her Alzheimer's made her lose her way going straight from point A to point B -- she was 78. My mom still drives today, and will give it up when her arthritis makes it difficult for her to move fully in her driver's seat. All younger than 85. A privilege, not a right. If that is true for our young drivers, it should be true for all drivers.

- Anita Ballesteros | 6/22/09 3:16 PM



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