JOHN McLANE: Driving is inherit to senior citizen’s independence

TO THE EDITOR:

Though counter to some logic and outright resistance, I believe the statistic that crashes — namely, rear-end ones — increase at speeds below basic traffic flow. I’ve suspected it for years.

Pioneer columnist Jim Crees’ suggestion (“Dangers of driving too slow,” Feb 13) that some folks ought to call the Commission on Aging for a ride seems like a kind way to address the risks without getting in the gray-haired faces of some who may be getting challenged in this area. It is clearly about slowed reaction times along with those who are too timid.

However, I’m at the brink of age where one is not thrilled to hear about it. I think back to the year I started driving legally. Kennedy was president. One shared the road with older vehicles that current drivers may have never heard of: Packards, Studebakers, Edsels with their two-toned Howard Johnson pastels and compact Ramblers. The latter was the flagship of American Motors Corp., the renovated company chaired by George Romney. He was also making a name for himself as spearheading the Michigan Constitutional Convention, the effort to replace that governing document from 1908.

Driving, of course, is inherit to our very independence, which takes on a whole new aura as we age. Who is about to give it up? Yet we need to be reminded just how long we have been at the wheel. Perhaps we need to reinstate a driver’s test. This could be not so much about the rules of the road, but about what we remember about when we started driving. These may pose trick questions in that right or positive answers tend to fail the test. I offer the following sample questions:

  • Do you remember sailing past successive “Burma Shave” signs? How about “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco” on the full sides of barns along the roadway?
  • Do you remember yellow stop signs? How about guard rail sections made from wood posts and stretched cable rope?
  • Do you recall hearing on the car radio, “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star — the big bright Texaco star!”
  • Do you recall hearing the pop song, “The Little Nash Rambler went Beep, Beep!” lyrics end when sailing around the big Caddy and the compact driver rolls down the window to yell, “How do I get this car out of second gear?”
  • Do you recall having to hop on I-94 across southern Michigan to catch the only completed interstate in the state? (In 1959 it was the first one completed in the nation.)

Well you catch my drift. The long-term memory of a mature driver in no way measures a quick response.

Yes, I have engaged some “tongue in cheek,” but who actually has a solution?

JOHN McLANE

Big Rapids Township

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