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Letters to the editor

July 29, 2003

Keep an eye on older drivers


To the editor:

The recent and very tragic car accident in California where eight were killed by an elderly driver plowing through a crowded farmers market should be of concern for all of us. We know an elderly driver and we are or will be an elderly driver.

The 86-year-old driver of the car never realized what he did and was actually accelerating instead of braking. What can we do or what is being done to minimize the chances that a nightmare like this does not happen to a family member or friend of yours?

We don't want to be quick to judgment and begin revoking the licenses of all drivers over 70. Many are very capable. However, the fact is that after a certain age mother nature takes its toll on all of us. Frankly there are many elderly drivers who are not physically and/or mentally capable of driving and are an accident waiting to happen on the road.

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The question is how do we identify the unsafe elderly driver? After an accident the police may issue a "re-examine slip" requiring a driver be retested at the local MVA. The test is a physical performance and may be a memory test. From there the driver may be referred to the Maryland Medical Advisory Board for more detailed evaluation. However, many times this is too late, such as was the case of the elderly driver in California.

Concerned siblings may refer their parents for retesting at the MVA. It may be tough to talk mom or dad into doing that because they are afraid to lose their license and their freedom. They don't need another reminder that they are getting old, but consider the consequences.

Unfortunately, with age comes dementia. Dementia and driving don't mix. At 50 mph, an elderly driver with a 2 or 3 second lapse of memory will travel 255 feet and not be driving the car. Try to spot this in your parents or grandparents. Be their chauffeur.

Due to concerns about the safety of the elder drivers, legislation may be introduced in 2004 requiring that drivers over 75 be rested by the MVA. That is not going to make AARP happy but it may be necessary to help identify drivers like the man that drove into the crowded farmers market and never realized what he had done.

Sometimes you have to take the car keys away from the 16-year -old driver, and sometimes you must take the keys away from the 80-year-old.

Joe Widmyer
Widmyer Driving School
Hagerstown




Many homeless want to work


To the editor:

I'm currently incarcerated at the detention center. I'm doing a one year sentence and my time is up in January.

That's where the nightmare begins. I'll be unemployed, homeless and without funds.

Recently I've been granted permission to participate in the work release program. I've worked all my life.

The problem is since there's no access to a phone daily to call for employment prospects and with no one on the outside I can depend on for help, there should be another way that the detention center can help people upon their release from incarceration.

What I'm looking at right at this moment is being another statistic of homelessness.

I've followed every article in the paper and a lot of people say give the homeless a job. Well, here's one before I become one of the homeless. Show me your faith in those words and give me a job. Don't write about the homeless that they don't want to work because you don't know all the circumstances.

John Dickey, No. 01169
W.C.D.C.
Hagerstown

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