Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Old folks drive
better than young jerks

I was driving -- slowwwwly -- behind a car that seemingly was being controlled by remote control the other day. I mean, we were doing about 15 miles per hour along a straight, wide-open stretch of road.

The weird thing is that there appeared to be no driver in the car ahead. I could see the front seat-back and the head rests, but the ghost car just cruised along with no one at the wheel.

So I carefully passed, and as I drove by I looked over and there was someone driving that car. It was a tiny, wrinkled old man, both hands on the steering wheel at precisely 10 and 2 o'clock, eyes staring intently ahead.

A few days later, I was following another slow car. This time, I could see the driver, even though the windows were darkly tinted. It was some kid, and he was one of those jerks who like to hold up traffic. I didn't tailgate him, but puttered along behind him patiently, knowing he was deliberately blocking the road. When we got to a long stretch, he assumed I was going to pass, but I wouldn't play his game. So he pulled over and I drove by, increasing speed to the posted limit. In seconds he had raced up behind me and was tailgating me.

Once upon a time I would have given the idiot the one-finger salute. But over the years I've mellowed out while everyone else seems to have armed themselves. So I just continued on, and the kid got bored and raced around me in a reckless way, or should I say "wreckless," because he almost wrecked an oncoming car.

THESE TWO INCIDENTS sum up in a nutshell why I think everyone should quit picking on elderly drivers. A few weeks ago, an elderly man accidentally plowed his car through a California street market, killing several people. It was a horrible accident and caused a lot of observers to call for an age limit for elderly drivers or for them to be given driving tests yearly.

The truth is that it's young punks who are the most dangerous on roads. In Hawaii we have had innocent people killed because of "street racers" flying in and out of traffic at 100 miles per hour. Kids like the one I encountered use the roads to bully and harass other drivers.

At the same time, my invisible driver buddy, the old dude whose head barely cleared the dashboard, was driving carefully. He might have been going a tad too slow -- all right, way too slow -- but at least he was paying attention.

It's true that elderly drivers can become road menaces. They do so after decades of safe driving. The young punks become a menace as soon as they get licensed to drive. Many of them drive without insurance, meaning that when they do crash into you, you have to pay for it.

I think every driver should take a driving test every year. And at that time, drivers should show proof of insurance and that they have no outstanding tickets. I'd bet that would result in more young drivers riding the bus than old ones.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail


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