apparently prevailed again. There has been a law in this state that has required older people to undergo an annual medical check with respect to their fitness to hold a driving licence. It has been a pretty basic thing along the lines of "Are you still breathing?" and "Can you read this line on the chart?" (A little more than that perhaps but not much.)
It got all older people who have a licence to the doctor at least once a year. Any serious deterioration in their ability to drive should have been picked up. Who knows what other issues might also have been picked up?
I know doctors did not like doing these tests. Nobody wants to tell an older person "You aren't fit to drive your beloved car anymore. I am taking away your mobility and freedom."
But driving a car is a privilege and a responsibility. It is not, as many people seem to believe, a right.
I have never had a licence to drive a car. Yes, I would like to have one. It would be very convenient. It would be lovely to be able to go out at night by just getting into a car and driving off. It would be lovely not having to pedal off in all weathers just we can eat. I know I don't have the necessary visual-perceptual skills.
I have also mentioned elsewhere that some years ago the Senior Cat had the good sense to decide it was time to hand his licence in. Not everyone does that.
So, why has the government decided to do away with the medical tests and rely on people making the decision for themselves? It is madness. The statistics now show that the older age group is involved in more fatal accidents than other generations. It used not to be that way but we have an ageing population. Their cars tend to be older too - and not as safe. Older people do not have the same reaction times.
We have friends who live in the hills behind us. In order to come into the city they need to come down via "the freeway". It is, as the name suggests, designed for fast travel. Our friends used to handle this with ease but this year one of them had several very small strokes. He appears to be okay to the general observer but he is no longer fit to handle the speed and complexity of the freeway. Recently there was a very serious accident at the lower end of the freeway. Three people died. Another two are still in hospital, probably for months to come. The driver of the tanker which caused the accident was not an older man but someone told me, "That could have been Dad in his ute." (A "ute" is what Downunderites call an open back utility vehicle used by farmers and tradesmen.) And yes, someone in a vehicle like that could have caused a similar tragedy.
I wonder, when people insist on continuing to drive although not fit to do so, how they would feel if they were the cause of an accident. What if it took the life of a much younger person? How would their families feel?
There is a family not far from here whose son was responsible for injuring a mate. He was driving. He did not survive. His mate was a passenger. His mate is now a "younger person" in a nursing home. He is not yet forty and he will be there for the rest of his life dependent on other people for everything. His parents died in another road accident so this family has, rightly, taken over. He is a constant reminder of their son's death and their son's stupidity in speeding. It has affected the entire family and will continue to do so for years.
But it is not just younger people who leave such legacies. It is older people too. If they don't know when to hand their licence in they could leave the same sort of unwanted legacy for their children.
To do away with even that minimal medical check seems like madness. I don't know what was behind the decision but it would seem like a moment of insanity. Can anyone think of a better explanation?