Friday, September 4, 2015

How to Save 5 Million People a Year (and Quit Giving Me Road Rage)

As I write this, I'm boiling with rage from a near accident in a roundabout. The average California driver seems to have slept through that portion of a driver's ed course. In this particular case, it was a group of older women in a Buick considerable in proportion to that of a moderately sized yacht.

I'm reminded of the Calvin and Hobbes quote "You would think the elderly would drive faster since they have less time."

As we dawn on a new industry of self driving cars and other modes of getting around pioneered by Google, Tesla, Uber, and perhaps Apple road safety will drastically improve.

Currently, 17% of all fatal traffic accidents involve someone over the age of 65. This might not seem like a shocking number but keep in mind that those over 65 only make up 16% of the driving population in the U.S.

Most opponents of self-driving cars and new technology are the elderly. They don't want to embrace it mainly because of the tradition of driving themselves around or they just don't trust something they don't understand. I remember when my Grandma saw a sign at Wendy's that said "Free WiFi" and she thought it was a new dessert. (She also pronounced it "Wiffy.")

Because of the initial opposition that most will have against self-driving cars I'd like to propose an incentive plan to put the elderly behind the wheel first. Subsidize the pricing of these cars for those over 65. With each passing year, driving becomes more and more dangerous for the elderly. Yet, there's about the same number of 85+ driving as there are 16 year olds. (A little more by most statistics I found. They're just not driving as many hours.)

A model like a credit of $5,000 for 65-75 and $8,000 for 75-85 year olds would encourage older drivers to buy a car that drives autonomously. It would also create independence and could allow for the elderly to live in retirement they way they planned.

I'm not one for government subsidies but this is something I'd consider in the name of public safety. Every year there's approximately 34 million traffic deaths with 5 million fatalities involving a driver who was over 65.

Just my thoughts,
Pete the Juggler

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