Sunday, December 23, 2007

Heroine of the highways

Muriel Gladwin of Hereford, England, taught herself to drive at the age of 12. Eighty two years later, Muriel has driven an estimated 600,000 miles and hasn't gotten a single ticket. At the age of 94, she has decided to give up her keys and let others drive her where she needs to go.

As most of us know, as we age our vision and reflexes begin to diminish. Time and again, I have encountered older drivers on the highway going under the speed limit, impeding the flow of traffic. Sometimes they are aware enough of their differing operating principles to at least ride in the right hand lane of the highway, and to try to avoid rush hour traffic.

My husband told me a story about fifteen years ago that is probably an exceptional situation, but still makes one wonder 'how old is too old to drive?'? He was coming off a major highway onto a pretty long exit ramp. Coming the wrong way down the exit ramp was a quite venerable woman in a very large older vehicle. The woman was going about fifteen miles and hour and could barely see about the steering wheel. My husband honked her horn several times and then pulled to one side, not knowing quite how to handle the situation. Fortunately, a police car quickly pulled up behind the wrong-way driver with lights flashing and pulled her over. My husband assumed that he got the driver turned around in the proper direction. He also hoped that he gave her a 'must appear' ticket so that a judge could discuss her driving future.

As much as driving represents freedom, it is a dangerous privilege that should only be granted to those capable of comporting themselves in a safe and serious manner on the roads. When I am no longer sharp enough to react quickly to the changing situations one encounters on the highways, I hope I have Muriel Gladwin's sense to know when it's time to retire from behind the wheel.

For more information on safe driving in your Golden Years check out AARP's driver safety program, which used to go by the name "55 Alive".

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