WatchSonoma Watch

Days of driving dangerously

As I was heading to work this morning along Highway 12 in Santa Rosa, I couldn’t help but notice the driver ahead of me – a senior in a blue knitted beanie – was having a hard time keeping her sedan on course. I’m not sure if she was distracted by something on the seat next to her or what, but twice she quickly corrected as her car drifted into the lane on the left and once she swerved a half-car deep into the bike lane on the right. Fortunately, no one was on the side of the road at that moment, although there often are walkers and bikers at that hour.

Maybe it was because I was keeping a close eye on this car that, after passing through the Mission Boulevard intersection, I didn’t notice another one – pulling up on the right of me!

Let’s just say that when you’re already in the far right-hand lane, you don’t expect to see another car outside the passenger window. At first, I thought the person was just being aggressive and was planning to pull ahead into the Valero gas station. But no, the driver – in this case, a silver-haired woman in a light olive green Lexus – sailed past both driveways for Valero and kept going – soaring past the driver in the cap and continuing as if the bicycle lane was just another lane of traffic!

She continued driving this way for at least another 200 yards or so at a good clip, passing at least one more car on the right before she finally realized she was not in a lane and merged over to the left. Fortunately for her – and others – nobody was biking or walking then either. It’s fortunate because sidewalks are inconsistent along that stretch of road. But had there been so much as a car starting to pull out of a driveway, it could have been a colossal accident.

All of this brought to mind all the coverage we have had lately about senior drivers and recent accidents. It also made me think of a column we ran on Sunday by Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times (“Preventing a tragedy for seniors behind the wheel”) about his struggles with trying to convince his father to stop driving. “If we took away his keys, as my mother pointed out, we’d be stealing his last bit of independence and making him miserable,” he wrote. “If we didn’t, and he hurt himself or someone else, we’d be responsible.”

It’s difficult enough trying to persuade a family member. But how do you persuade a stranger?

I’m not really sure what was going on this morning, but my advice to those who are walking or biking next to busy roads these days: Be careful. These are the days of distracted and dangerous drivers.

- Paul Gullixson

8 Responses to “Days of driving dangerously”

  1. sheryl says:

    What scares the heck out of me? All the Mario Andrettis in their mini vans.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  2. Follower says:

    An old lady in her Oldsmobile –vs- an Soccer Momacita in her mini van?
    Tough call!

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  3. GAJ says:

    Seniors 81 and above are only a tiny bit safer, (in terms of accidents per million miles driven), than the most dangerous age group which are 16-20 year olds.

    Third most dangerous group is 71-80 year olds who are quite a bit ahead of the fourth most dangerous group which are 21-30 year olds.

    Safest drivers are 31-70.

    No question there should be stricter regulation for the most dangerous of drivers.

    We just took the car keys away from my 85 year old; she’d gotten to the point where she couldn’t remember where she’d just driven to when asked.

    The lady that almost killed me a few years back on my motorcycle was 85+ years old. She was waiting to make a left across my path and waited until I was within 15 feet of her to pull in front of me…there was NO other traffic that day and there were ten seconds of clear path for her to turn before I entered the intersection. I still kick myself for “assuming” the car must have been empty/broken down as I approached because there was no reason for it to not make the turn.


    She told the officer that she did nothing wrong because she had a green light and therefore could turn across traffic any time she chose…and yes, she said she clearly saw me approaching.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  4. Skippy says:

    Until the use of all electronic devices while in a moving vehicle is banned, with a mandatory license suspension for offenders, I will look to seniors as the safest drivers on the road.
    Why? Simple. When they drive, all they do is drive.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  5. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    As a bus rider and a walker these days I have to say that people are driving, more and more, distracted to the max. I have seen so many almost accidents. I have had people zoom in front of me in a crosswalk. I have seen other pedestrians waiting at a crosswalk with the light to stop flashing AND NO ONE STOPS. I have right turn drivers looking left having to slam on their brakes because they finally look right and there I am.

    I think there ought to be a law against distractions of all kinds. We used to pull over to look at a map, now we have our eyes glued to a GPS device, not on the road. Add to that cell phones, food and drink, texting (the worse-it takes seconds to have an accident), even TVs and other devices.

    I learned defensive driving in high school. They don’t even teach this in high school anymore. I had a whole semester learning about the driving laws and about every part in the car and how it runs BEFORE I was even let behind the steering wheel. It was a thorough training and all before I was 16 years old. I took my driver’s test in an old beat up VW bug that rolled backward if I stopped on a hill. And I passed, first time.

    People are in too much of a hurry, they follow too closely, they allow themselves to be distracted, and accidents happen and people get run over.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  6. Reality Check says:

    There’s plenty of bad driving by people of all ages. Younger drivers by choice, older drivers the result (mostly) of declining faculties.

    How about shortening the renewal term for all drivers starting at age 72 and require a physical driving test as well? That’s at least a start. Now, what are we going to do about the younger drivers who endanger the lives of others?

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  7. Nora Gonzales says:

    Senior drivers are not a big problem in California. The problem people are those driving too fast for the road conditions, tailgating, speeding and crazy passing.

    The ages are usually 20 something or those 30 somethings in SUV’s going home or to work.

    California drivers have flunked the good manners and good, safe driving practices 30 years ago. Now it is just get out of my way, I am more important than you and I need to get somewhere.

    I wonder how many of these maniacs actually have drivers licenses and insurance?

    Before we go nuts trying to get the seniors off the road, we need to focus on the speeding, careless teens and idiots on our freeways.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  8. David says:

    I worry far more about teen age girls texting as they drive than I do about senior drivers. Equally bad are young men who think they have to drive right on your bumper.

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 1

Leave a Reply