Wednesday, May 6, 2015

DWG: Driving While Gray

In the 40-plus years that I’ve been driving, I’m proud to say that I have a fairly unblemished record. As someone who makes a 2 hour round-trip commute to and from work every day, I consider this to be a feather in my hat. Recently, however, that hat has been losing some feathers due to the, as yet still legal, vehicular activity known as DWG (Driving While Gray).

DWG, like its counterpart DWI, is definitely driving while under the influence, only in this case the intoxicating substance is one’s aging brain and a mind that no longer shifts gears as quickly. DWG is characterized by the following:

1. Getting into your car without the keys.
2. Forgetting to turn the headlights on despite the realization that everyone else has theirs on.
3. Missing an exit.
4. Taking the wrong exit.
5. Slowing down in the middle of traffic while trying to decide which exit to take.
6. Forgetting, if even just for an instant, where one was going.
7. Forgetting, if even just for an instant, how one got to where one is.
8. Locking the keys in the car upon arriving at one’s destination.
9. Locking the keys in a running car upon arriving at one’s destination.
10. Forgetting where one left the car after parking at said destination.

Given all of these travel mishaps, it was refreshing to learn that, according to the Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety, senior drivers are the safest drivers on the road. Their research found that as we age we’re more likely to wear our seat belts, not text while driving, obey the speed limit, and less likely to drink and drive.

That being said, I think there is one area in which getting older behind the wheel could be a safety hazard and that is the potential for road rage, or, as it’s known in the senior community, a Grumpy Getaway, or GG for short. This phenomenon occurs when someone who has seen far too many bad drivers, had far too many near accidents and cannot for the life of them figure out why someone would want to eat, drink, and text all while driving, decides to finally take matters into their own hands. Behaviors include:

Getting in front of an inpatient driver and intentionally slowing down.
Hitting the breaks at random intervals.
Driving in the passing lane 10 miles below the speed limit.
Leaving one’s blinker on well past a turn.
Rolling the window down and blasting NPR on the car stereo
Failing to yield to anyone under the age of 40 at a cross walk
Seeing Stop signs as optional

Additionally, there is the granddaddy of them all; the feigning of a heart attack when an unsuspecting aggressive driver leaves their vehicle to confront any of the above actions.

To be honest, there’s something thrilling about taking the wheel with wrinkled hands and using one’s car to make a statement about society's indifference to seniors. Sure, you can ignore me while I’m in line at the grocery store. Yes, I may be invisible to the young host or hostess trying to impress the younger “in crowd” but when I stop short in front of you at 60 miles an hour, it’s “Did you see what that old man did?” I have even considered a bumper sticker that says, “I don’t brake for anyone under 30.”

Despite the fact that we Baby-Boomers are taking to the streets in record numbers, it seems unlikely that communities will designate special lanes on the highway for those of us who are graying and still driving. However, switching from HOV to OOV (old occupant vehicle) lanes is probably not as crazy as it sounds. 

My idea is to bring back the signs we hung in our cars when we were younger; only this time it will not read Baby on Board but Grayby on Board. This can be a caution to all other drivers that the person behind the wheel has put up with way too much crap in his or her life to worry about someone else’s energy efficient, decked out, “costs more than my first house,” car and is going to drive however the hell he or she wants.

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