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March 5, 2013 / mike54martin

Two Ways to Save Lives


If you had the power to implement 2 suggestions that could automatically save lives would you do it? Before you say yes you better prepare yourself for an avalanche of backlash. Are you ready? Because what I am going to say is going to be almost uniformly unpopular with many of you, maybe even all of us. But just because we don’t like it doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense.

The 2 ways are to raise the drinking age to 25 and to stop allowing people over 80 to drive motor vehicles. Are you still prepared to act?

I won’t try and bamboozle you with facts because I don’t need it. The people who really determine the odds of living and dying are not in the medical profession, they are in the insurance business. And they say that the greatest risks for accident and accidental death, with or without a motor vehicle are those under 25, particularly males, and those over 75. Not only do they say that but they act for your money upfront to prove it if you are in one of these categories.

The case for raising the drinking age is simple. Young people drink, they drive, and they die. Not only that but they kill other young people. And they kill older people. They are not the only ones doing this but proportionally their stats are way out of whack. Young people also tend to drink excessively, binge drink (both males and females) and do really stupid things while drunk. Things like rape and sexual assault and sometimes they kill themselves and others accidentally without even getting behind the wheel of a car.

Somehow this type of drinking is glamourized and dressed up like some kind of bullshit coming of age when really it is a dangerous and deadly practice. One that we could postpone, at least until they were a little older and hopefully a little wiser. I just ask you this. If it was your son or daughter what would you prefer?

The case for withdrawing the privilege of driving a motor vehicle from people over 80 is also a very simple one. After age 60 or so all of us start losing a little bit of our physical and mental capacities in some way, some faster and some slower than others. These include our hearing and eyesight which can fortunately be supported through hearing aids and glasses. But they also include our reaction times and things like our depth and space perceptions. You can keep them up a little bit through special exercise and practice but eventually time wins out.

We have also made this issue one of personal liberty and freedoms but I would point out that while the greatest danger to older drivers is certainly to themselves, all the rest of the travelling public has to be aware when they are around. We license drivers for a reason: to prove that they can drive. After 80 most of us simply do not have the capacity to drive safely. As they say in Quebec: Point Final!! Once again I would ask you a question. If it was your mom or dad would you want them out on the 401 at 80?

I realize that I may have stirred up a hornets nest with these suggestions and maybe it’s my S.A.D. kicking in or the fact that I didn’t get to Cuba this year, or maybe I am just becoming a curmudgeon before my time. In any case I offer these early March thoughts in the hopes of provoking a discussion and I’d love to hear your ideas. (Please be gentle!!)

Mike Martin is a freelance writer and author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People.

He is also the author of The Walker on the Cape, a Sgt. Windflower mystery.


Leave a Comment
  1. Robert Way / Mar 7 2013 5:37 am

    Interesting perspective. However you realize that the same things people already do now, to pursue what they perceive to be a desirable practice but before the age of majority, will still be pursued but with greater innovation and experience to obtain “that which mystifies” before the age of 25. I got booze at age 15 and my drivers’ permit at 16 (Manitoba.) Creating new regulations can only drive early drinking further under ground. Rigorous honesty in that age group is still under experimentation.

    As for the older ones, I agree that they need to stop at some point. But at what point? Like Jerry Seinfeld says, “What is the age when the elderly begin to back up without looking first?” Maybe that should be it.

    • mike54martin / Mar 7 2013 12:52 pm

      I guess I really am suggesting that we protect people (young and old) from themselves. It may indeed be wishful thinking.

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