So, this brings a question to mind: when should people stop driving?
|Hint: if this was your first car, IT'S TIME TO STOP DRIVING.|
I can see why. In the western United States, driving is considered more a right than a privilege. The West is spread out; there's a lot of space between towns, and it's not at all unusual for people to drive 50 or 60 miles one way to work every day. Outside the big metropolitan areas, public transportation can be sparse or nonexistent. (Amtrak is more of a joke than a viable transportation option through most of the West.) And not everyone can (or wants to) have a job that allows her to cocoon up and telecommute. Plus, in an era where local banks are closing branches and local supermarkets are calling it quits, there are many small towns where it's no longer possible to walk to the store or the bank. Western transportation infrastructure -- specifically, the lack thereof -- means Westerners will likely cling to their cars for a long time to come. And aging Westerners need transportation just as much as their younger counterparts do, even if they shouldn't drive any more.
We're very fortunate to live in an area with half-decent public transit. King County Metro is reliable enough that Captain Midnight can take the bus to work every day. There are continuing efforts to make the bus and ferry system more accessible to people with limited mobility. Even the much-maligned, insanely expensive Link light rail system should help people along its corridor get places when it's finally completed (which should be some time shortly before the Last Trump). But not everyone is so fortunately situated. People who know they should no longer drive, but who have no alternate way to get around, are really behind the 8-ball. They usually rely on the kindness of family members or friends to get them to their appointments, to the store, to work, to church -- or they simply become homebound.
That lady I saw at Safeway today shouldn't have been driving herself anywhere. She's become a danger to herself and others, probably by degrees. As mentioned, self-driving cars will eventually improve this situation for those who can afford them -- but in the meantime, what kinds of things could we do to help people keep their mobility, no matter where they live or how much they make?