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I recently received a call from a gentleman who makes his home in Iowa. He explained that his father, who lives in a quaint southern costal town, recently became confused while pulling into a parking lot, and ended up accelerating into the front window of a family restaurant during the Sunday morning rush.

Seven people were transported directly from their breakfast table to local hospitals for treatment. The 79 year old driver, nor his 83 year old wife were injured.

The son was asking me to meet with his father for one of our "Enhanced Self-Assessments", a program designed specifically for older drivers. He stated that his father has reluctantly agreed to participate in the program.

In an attempt to keep a long story short, the father was very irritated that someone was challenging his ability to drive safely. He did his best to explain how the accident was not his fault, and that rather it was the fault of the aged soles of his Sunday shoes. He further to explain that the only reason anyone went to the hospital was because "they saw dollar signs".

The disturbed father ended the self-assessment prematurely, and kindly asked me to navigate my way back to Cleveland.

I was very disappointed that no progress had been made in my attempt to help keep this well-educated gentleman, his wife, restaurant patrons everywhere, and the motoring public in general, safe. Fortunately, this gentleman is NOT representative of the Greatest Generation. He is the exception and not the norm.

The father was not at all bothered when it was suggested to him that someone could well have been killed in this incident, and that he may be at a higher risk than others for a similar incident to happen in the future. He simply re-iterated that those that went to the hospital were not injured at all, and they were only acting for the purposes of a future lawsuit against him. He further explained that "everyone’s allowed to have an accident or two".

It was very clear that this gentleman would never retire from driving, regardless of the consequences and the risk he was posing to others.

I’m reminded of the parable of the "Scorpion and the Frog":

Once upon a time a scorpion wanted to cross a brook. On the bank he saw a frog and asked if the frog would give him a ride to the other side.

"Oh no," says the frog, "If I carry you on my back you will sting me."

"But why would I sting you when we would both surely perish," replied the scorpion.

The frog eventually conceded that the scorpion had a point, and agreed to the request.

Half way across, the scorpion stung the frog, and they both began to drown.

"But why did you break your word and sting me, knowing it would be certain death for us both?" cried the frog.

"Because it is in my nature." said the scorpion.

~author unknown

It is unfortunate that both the elderly driver and the scorpion live in complete disregard for the safety and well-being not only of themselves, but also of others. Both know or knew that their actions were going to lead to their own death and likely the death of others, but neither cared.

The scorpion has already demonstrated it.

So has this older driver.

2 Comments

  1. Gravatar for CJC

    Re: The Scorpion and the Frog. I am completely on board with the author's discussion of the older driver who did not acknowledge the consequences of his accident, except for the implied interpretation as to "caring". The difference between the scorpion and the elderly gentleman is that statistically speaking, by his age and behavior, we can assume the man is almost certainly suffering from dementia. The inability to make rational decisions, blunted emotions, and defensiveness often accompany dementia. It's not his fault that he is unable to decide to stop driving. That decision has to be made for him, as unpleasant as that may be for a variety of Constitutional, individual, and family reasons. If he refuses to be evaluated, the driving privilege will have to be taken from him by either formal or informal means. I should note, however, that the vast majority of drivers who have dementia do, in fact, give up driving voluntarily long before they place at risk themselves or others.

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