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What could go wrong?


Something happened to me last week that shouldn’t have. I got a driver’s license. No testing. No behind-the-wheel exam. Nothing.

Just gave ‘em my old Arizona ticket, paid $90.00 for an eight-year Oregon replacement and “Down the road, Jack.”

Hundreds of Oregonians have the same experience each week. But, for me, it shouldn’t have happened.

This month, I’m 86-years-old. When my new license expires – if I’m still around – I’ll be 94. In the intervening years, no checking to see if my eyes are holding up. No checking my vision or response times. No contact with the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles. Nothing.

Oh, by the way, issued with my new license was a disabled motorist card to hang from my rearview mirror. It, too, runs until I’m 94.

Now, if I’m a “disabled” motorist in my mid-eighties who – under the law – qualifies to be treated as such, what business does the State of Oregon have turning me loose on the highways? Statistics show my age bunch is responsible for more road accidents than any driver group except teenagers.

I’m at a time in my life when I should think seriously of handing my car keys to my somewhat younger wife. If things go along O.K., she’ll be “in the same boat” in a few years. Then what? How will we get around? How will we get the weekly groceries? How will we get to doctors’ appointments and other necessary errands?

We’re fortunate that our little community has had a pretty good public transportation system. Many of our neighbors have relied heavily on it to take care of their “getting around” needs.

But – that excellent system is being threatened by an absence of qualified drivers and has begun cutting back routes and appointment availabilities. Seniors are starting to feel the pinch.

This is one of those rare public issue cases where money is not the problem. The aging population is. And, that aging process is going to be felt a lot more in other instances like housing and employment in the coming years.

Sadly, the our current local issue of faltering senior transportation is one not a lot of people pay much attention to because it doesn’t directly involve them unless they have a parent or other close relative affected.

But, if you’re 91, and need to make regular visits to a doctor or to pick up a badly needed prescription, it can get deadly serious.

Now, for our little transportation problem, there would seem to be a ready solution. Like me. I’m in excellent health for my age. So are a lot of other guys around here. The small, 12-passenger busses aren’t hard to drive. Many of us drove far larger motor homes or dragged a 40-foot fifth wheel after we retired. Most of us have good, accident-free driving records. And we have plenty of time on our hands. We could fill the gap and could use the extra income of some 20-dollars-an-hour.

But, who’s going to give the bus keys to some guy who’s in his 80’s? Excellent health can change in a moment. Deteriorating health is a certainty. What happens if one of us is behind the wheel when the “big one” strikes? What about the elderly passengers?

No, sadly, guys my age aren’t the answer. Much as we’d like to take on the task, we’re not going to be seriously considered.

And, probably, rightfully so.

But, hell, if you live in a state that gives you a blank check behind the wheel in the form of an eight-year driver’s license renewal while in your eighties, why not?

What could go wrong?

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