Portland has recently had several incidents in which an elderly driver mistakenly stomped on the gas instead of the brake and hit a person, car and/or building. In one incident, a baby died. So there’s been some discussion about whether people should have annual driving tests after a certain age.
A local news station interviewed an elderly man about this. He said that no one wants to stop driving because they don’t want to give up their independence.
I’ve heard this independence thing before — from myself. In college, I wanted a car because I felt it would allow me to be more independent. I could come and go whenever I wanted to, without worrying about bus schedules.
But as I listened to the man on the news, I realized that it’s not really independence that’s the issue, at least not in this time and place. It’s control.
It’s perfectly possible to get around Portland (and probably most decent-sized cities) without using a car. You can be completely independent without a car, just by using a bicycle and/or public transit.
Can you get to where you want to go just as quickly as you want to go? Probably not. It will probably take you longer. And if you ride the bus, you will have to follow the bus schedule and bus routes. So you do not have full control over getting there.
What if you are not physically able to ride a bike, or even regular public transit? Well, services are available for people who are physically unable to use regular transit. In Portland, the LIFT bus can come to your house or other location to pick you up. It’s not that different from taking the regular bus.
However, you do still have to work with the LIFT scheduling process. You can’t just up and go whenever and wherever you want.
Another option is a taxi. It’s more expensive, but if you’ve just got to get somewhere, it’s available.
Now, leaving aside the whole issue of whether elderly drivers should be tested — what do you think? For people of any age, does a car give you independence, or just control? Is it really necessary to have full control over how we move around town?