Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Move it or lose it

A few days ago, while on my way to work, I had one of the scariest driving experiences I've ever had. I was driving down I-5, going about 64 MPH, when I noticed that the car in the lane to the right of me was approaching me from behind, and getting dangerously close to the dividing line. I wasn't in the car's blind spot, so I assumed that the driver was simply getting too close to the line, would realize his mistake, and move back over. I honked my horn (over and over) to let the driver know that I was directly next to him in the lane he was trying to get into. Instead of getting back into his own lane, he continued to just move on over. Out of pure instinct, I moved over into the HOV lane to avoid an accident (screaming in fear all the while), barely missing the car and barely missing another car driving in the HOV lane.

Once the near-accident was over, I looked over at the car to see a very elderly man driving. A man who obviously should not still be allowed to drive. He didn't appear shaken up or apologetic in the least. In fact, I don't even think he realized what he had just done. I'm pretty sure he was completely oblivious of every other car on the road. I was really shaken up. It was the closest I have ever been to a serious accident and I can't explain how angry I was with this driver. I got his license plate and seriously considered reporting him to the police for reckless driving.

After this experience, I was curious to find out what procedures we have here in Washington to ensure that senior drivers are still qualified and capable of driving. I was surprised to discover that Washington does not require more frequent renewals or have any special requirements for senior drivers. This means that seniors only need to renew their licenses every 5 years without taking any additional tests unless somebody at the DOL deems it necessary. Really?? I respect my elders and don't think their privilege to drive should be taken away unnecessarily, but we all know that older drivers cause a disproportionate amount of accidents. Shouldn't we be making sure that they are still capable of driving before renewing their licenses? Shouldn't we consider the safety of not only the older drivers, but also all the other drivers out there?

I did read online that after age 65, a person must renew his license in person and pass a vision test. (Phew, at least we're doing something). However, I could not find any regulation to back that up and could not get through to the DOL to have them confirm it. (I waited on hold for 35 minutes and finally gave up.) Do any of you know if that's really the case?

Some state require an accelerated renewal (more frequent renewals than the standard), additional tests, physician's certification, etc. What do you think is appropriate?


  1. Being licensed to drive in the U.S. is closely tied to personal independence for the driver. It's very difficult for senior drivers to come to the realization that they are no longer safe to drive. It's pretty much like being on house arrest.

    Washington State does have a special driver's license for those who need it. They come out to the person's house and do a unique driving test which includes going from the person's house to the store and doctor's office. Basically, it's only good for daylight hours and within a limited mile radius around their house. This helps the person maintain some sense of independence and keeps the public relatively safe since the roads are residential and no freeways are involved.

  2. But all the same, if you are completely unaware that you are causing a collision if not for the quick reactions of other drivers then you shouldn't be driving.

    Katie, it sounds like you are lucky to have had a small space cushion around your vehicle so that you could move over. I hope the driver you cut off was able to see what the other car did to you and adjust accordingly. Driving in Seattle can really get your blood pumping sometimes.


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