and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column

Omnibus bill could address road hazards young and old
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, June 11, 2009

Look at the bright side: When the government and unions have finally taken over the entire automobile industry, there will soon be no cars to drive and we can all stop worrying about drunk, distracted or geezer drivers.

How much damage can you do if you are riding a bike or driving a horse and buggy? Even if you're texting as you pedal, or saying "Giddyup!" instead of "Whoah!" because you're confused, the damage to innocent bystanders should be minimal.

Kids will be healthier because they'll walk to school; the environment will suffer only from an increase in horse manure; and we'll be less dependent on foreign oil so President Obama can stop apologizing to Middle-Eastern potentates, and poor Americans can heat their homes without having to thank the generous people of Venezuela.

I'll miss having my newspapers delivered to my front porch, but at least no one will be driving to my house to drop off 12 phone books of which I'll recycle 10.

The demise of automobiles won't solve the problem of distracted MBTA drivers, but those of us who are able to avoid public transportation will be safe enough.

Yes, I do realize that we will still need paid police details around construction sites, just in case someone tries to rob a nearby convenience store. But with less wear and tear on the roads from bikes and horses, there won't be as much construction.

So many problems on their way to being solved, and we're not even five months into the Obama administration!

However, until all the cars are gone, could the Massachusetts Legislature pass just one simple law requiring that drivers over 85 be tested annually before they assault more innocent buildings; before they injure themselves and others, even killing people who might themselves like a chance to get old?

Yes, I know the Legislature is even more afraid of the AARP than it is the police unions, and as more baby boomers pool their traditionally self-absorbed power with AARP memberships it will get even scarier. But politicians: Just because you have a special license plate to denote your own self-importance doesn't mean your car won't be at the receiving end of the next geezer accident.

Picture this, Mr. Lawmaker: You are cruising down the highway, dodging drunk drivers who have been enabled by soft judges, boomers who are driving with one hand while chatting with a client, millennials who are carrying on digital conversations with 200 of their closest friends, and teenagers who are showing off for the kids in the back seat, when, coming right up behind you, there's an octogenarian who misplaced his brake foot.

Think your having told every senior in your district that they are "looking well" in order to get their vote will save you?

Yes, I'm afraid this is what it will take: A House or Senate leader, en route to an indictment, sitting by the side of the road listening to an octogenarian telling the policeman that he didn't see your now-demolished auto before he hit it.

I know, it's not funny. But serious conversation about this issue doesn't seem to be getting us anywhere with geezer-phobic politicians. (All senior citizens, by the way, aren't geezers just the ones who think they're entitled to drive until they kill someone.)

State Sen. Brian Joyce, D-Milton, deserves credit for continuing to file his bill calling for the testing of drivers over 85 years of age. The testing should be done on drivers over 75, but clearly this is the best Sen. Joyce thinks he can get.

Only he can't get this either. The bill is considered "age discrimination." So he probably can't get testing for centenarians either.

Some local talk-show hosts have been on a mission to get the Joyce bill passed. When Gov. Patrick was on with WTKK's Jim and Margery, an elderly woman called to beg him to get her husband off the road. He'd already collected $3,000 in insurance surcharges. She said the Registry allows him to drive only in daylight, but, "that's when he had all the accidents!"

The governor asked to talk to her husband, but the woman said he was out buying a new car. So Patrick asked for her phone number; I had the impression he was going to try to convince her husband himself. Good luck with that, governor.

One man I know couldn't get his widowed grandmother to give up the car, so he and his cousin stole it one night and parked it in a friend's backyard in another town. His Nana called the police, who politely agreed to keep an eye out for it.

I know it's not just senior citizens. I careen around town with all the other erratic yard-salers on Saturday morning myself. Not much the government can do about us.

But state legislators can address the most serious threats to public safety. If they require testing of older seniors and in the same bill forbid texting and talking on cell phones while driving, they can't be accused of "age discrimination," just support for public safety.

Who could object to that?

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.