Updated: Dec 20, 2019
While I know that this topic might seem as though it would encourage age discrimination, I would argue that it is just the opposite. Minimum driving ages have been in existence for years without significant resistance. Why? The people affected by the age restriction are not able to vote, nor are they eligible to be writing policy. The age requirement is generally about assuming that someone who has reached the given age would be able to physically handle operating a motor vehicle. Should age be the barrier to entry for an activity that can be so dangerous?
A restriction that most of us have faced growing up is one of height. Have you ever gone to an amusement park or even a local carnival where you may have been turned away from a particular ride due to your height, or rather a lack of height? How is it that roller coasters and various other amusement rides have this restriction for occasion use, but automobiles which are operated by so many on a daily basis do not? I have seen 12-year-olds who were physically able to drive a car and 20-year-olds who could barely touch the pedals let alone see over the steering wheel. Additionally, everyone has seen an older adult whose diminishing physical capacity forces them to drive an automobile by looking between the steering wheel and the dash.
How is it that you can buy a car that you are not physically able to operate safely? Simple. There is no law governing this behavior. Should there be? I would think that one should be able to see the road surface while seated in a normal operating position. In particular, the road surface within a given distance in front of the automobile. There are plenty of visual obstacles within most vehicles already for a driver who can see over the hood.
Some people may suggest that I am encouraging discrimination based on height. Not true. This issue is about being able to see your surroundings. Are you willing to hand a blind person a driver's license? That is the essence of the question.
The car you want versus the vehicle you can operate safely may well be two completely different automobiles. If you have spent any time operating vehicles and have done so in the variety that I have, you would know that some of them aren't as easy to drive given your stature. The dimensions of some larger vehicles make it difficult to reach certain controls. On the flip side, you may have been in an automobile that was so small that it limits your ability to move in certain ways.
The most famous haven for the aging U.S. senior population only requires that a driver's license is renewed every eight years until age 80. After age 80 they finally drop the renewal requirement to every six years. Another popular haven for the senior population requires that only one's drivers license photo be updated every twelve years until age 65. After 65 they drop the renewal term to every five years and thankfully require a vision test every time. The state where my driver's license is issued requires an in-person renewal every five years and a basic vision test every time, regardless of age. All in all, not a big deal to be re-examined every five years given the consequences of operating an automobile with reduced capacity.
Given the number of drivers on the road should we be reevaluating the criteria for the renewal of a driver's license? I know many would consider a driver's license a right, but if it were a right there would be no testing requirement at all. You would not even need a license; you would just jump into a car whenever you want and go on your merry way. Is that something you really want anyone to be able to do?
Get tips on how to address this issue and many others in Death and Taxes: Fallout from the Baby Boom.
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