Thursday, April 23, 2009

My mom just totalled her car

I just got a phone call that my 84 year old mother had a car accident: early afternoon, traveling about 35 mph on a divided two-lane road, lined with retail and parking in a commercial district, about a half a mile from her house. She dozed off after exersize and a big lunch, wrapped the car around the telephone pole that crushed the car, narrowly missing her head.

Car totaled. She is fine and no one was hurt.

An excellent wake up call for her. And for her family. And why not for the nation? As long as we invest heavily and almost exclusively in a car-dependent environment, with no good alternatives for safe walking, biking, shopping, or quality transit, we will continue to see such accidents across America, and many without the happy ending.

As long as we continue to believe that the status quo is just fine, we will continue to have seniors (and juniors, and the poor, and the wise, and the economical, and the impaired) without options.

And for the record, her car gets 40 mpg. Fuel efficiency isn’t going to solve this problem.

What does it take to wake us up?

See 5/27/09 Mom update


Joost Bonsen said...

Sorry Robin, why is irresponsible behavior -- driving while sleepy or otherwise not-able -- a "wake up call" about transportation alternatives?

I'm resonant with your call for better choices on other grounds, and certainly thankful that your Mom's okay, but I don't grok your logic.


Robin Chase said...

Joost, Because my mom -- like others who feel like they would be under "house arrest" if they couldn't drive -- use bad judgment all the time. They convince themselves that things aren't so bad, because the alternative is so terrible. Much like those public service ads that tell people that driving with a "buzz" is also an impairment.

Robin Hadley said...

It's also an important reminder that not everyone can walk or bike long distances, or navigate the huge staircases that are still integral to our best transit systems. A rapidly increasing percentage of the U.S. population are old enough that few if any their age have the reaction time to safely drive. A few states have started requiring driving tests over various ages. But not enough has been done to provide alternatives. Recent articles on NYC transit cuts eliminating less-used bus lines that are the heart of some elders, and whole neighborhoods, lives is a another reminder that, the way the recession is hitting local and state budgets, and the way federal stimulus is allocated so far, things are moving backwards.

Dwight Mengel said...

I'm glad your mother survived.

The "wake up call" to me is the approach to transitioning elder drivers into passengers as advocated by ITN America. I'm impressed with their business plan, marketing and research. We are working to bringing this program to upstate NY.

Kim Novick said...

Yikes...mum might be are you? shit, I'd be totaled...

Mike Weisman said...

I share Robin's thinking on this. My mum passed away a few years back, but before she did, she totaled her Saab in a T-bone accident about a half mile from her house, with her 88 year old boyfriend driving. They were both unharmed thanks to airbags, but clearly shaken up!

Joost, I don't know if you live in NL, in VS, but here in Amerika many elderly people don't have a choice not to drive. Our car-centric planning practices locate residential housing far from commercial districts. It is legally impossible for elderly people to live near stores, health clubs, medical clinics, theatres, etc., in most of the country.

Add to that the human inclination not to want to move from the family home at 84, 80, or 75, and it is a pretty grim picture in much of the country.

There is a new and stupid movement among social workers to keep people in their homes (so that cities won't be forced to build housing for seniors in the centers) by bringing services to them. A nice idea, but it is effectively a public subsidy of the car centric planning paradigm.

Robin, I'm with you on this. It is a tangent, but we have to address the land use and planning issues, and our cultural norms, to help get the elderly out of their homes and closer to services, so they don't have to drive and aren't in 'prison' in their own houses.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Robin! I hope you are all doing fine. Keep an eye on her: Concusions dont always present immediately. I'm a big fan of your work with car-sharing.

Jenny F said...

I agree about the need for safer, foot, foot-powered & public-powered alternatives. But a wake up call -- and I see this with my own parents -- is the issue of an increasingly aging population out on the roads. The house arrest question cannot be ignored. But what are some possible solutions?

brain injuries in Los Angeles, CA said...

Let your mom know that there's help out there. Look for a Los Angeles car accident lawyer that specializes in elderly people. They're the best ones for the job.

Toyota Tundra said...

I'm glad to hear that she was safe. This will serve as an eye-opener, for sure. ;)

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