|There’s been an ongoing discussion on TV as to whether or not it would be advisable for there to be an age limit on driving. If there’s an age requirement to get a license should there be one for giving it up? Good question. Given the horrifying statistics on accidents on both ends of the age spectrum, it’s worth thinking about.
I’ve driven with some people much older than I and also with some young, very new drivers. There have been hair raising incidents in both cases. The near misses, never noticed by the driver, have been the worst.
Personally, it’s a moot question. About 12 years ago two sour hip replacements forced me to turn in my ignition key. I became unable to transfer my foot from the accelerator to the brake. My reflexes were still OK and I still had the peripheral vision of an owl but there was no arguing with the fact that it was time to give up the wheel.
I didn’t learn to drive until I was 21. My husband tried to teach me but that wasn’t a good idea, so I enrolled in a driving school and was taught by a calm young man with a car with dual controls. He changed to a standard model in three weeks and by the end of the fourth, I had my license.
Filled with confidence I promptly drove up to San Francisco and tackled the hills. Having a car with an automatic hill holder certainly helped. That same week I started smoking. I think I regarded myself as going through a rite of passage into real adulthood. I certainly felt sophisticated getting out of my car and putting one of my British, oval filtered cigarettes into my fancy cigarette holder. I must have looked pretty weird, wearing, as I did when just running around, blue jeans, sneakers and a baseball cap.
Fortunately, I gave up smoking long before driving. Smoking and teaching gym to elementary school kids just didn’t mix. I needed all the breath I could muster. It wasn’t hard to do, thanks to two factors, one, I never smoked a cigarette down to the end. I would light one, take a few puffs, then put it out. A while later, I would do it again. This was a good thing. Always using filters was another point in my favor.
In a magazine, I found the perfect way to quit the vile habit. There was an article which pointed out that most smokers combined smoking with one or another activity - talking on the phone or drinking coffee. I was not a phone user but a marathon black coffee drinker, consuming at least one pot a day, and always with a cigarette in hand. The article advised giving up both habits for three weeks. They said to tell your phone buddies not to call and to stop drinking coffee.
I took the advice and at the end of three weeks was a free soul and breathing like a five year old. I haven’t had a cigarette or black coffee since, and have never wanted either, not even in times of great stress.
Giving up driving can’t be compared with giving up smoking. That’s for sure but there are some difficult adjustments. You lose a degree of freedom and suffer certain inconveniences. I hate having to be dependent for rides to the store, the library and the post office. I also admit to missing the fun of going places when I have the urge for some road running. There’s also missing the joy of going somewhere with grandchildren.
I console myself with the thought that I’m just going through another rite of passage, and that’s life.