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JURASSIC DRIVING IN FLORIDA

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 7, 2013

BRYCE ON LIFE

– What my automobile accidents have in common: the elderly.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Over the years I have been involved with three automobile accidents. Fortunately, none were my fault but I was still a victim nevertheless. When I was 19 years old and living in Cincinnati, I was on my way home on my motorcycle after working all day at a Sohio gas station. As I headed down a thoroughfare at 35 mph, a drunk, who was driving in the opposite direction, turned in front of me and directly into my path. I hit the midsection of his car which catapulted me over the handlebars, over his car, and out into the middle of the street. There are those people who believe their lives flash before their eyes before they die. It’s true. I was flooded with images as I was about to hit the car, but being only 19 I required some reruns. Nevertheless, I suffered a delayed muscle spasm along my spine which paralyzed me for a few days. This injury still haunts me to this day, and I haven’t ridden a motorcycle ever since.

I was able to avoid accidents for several years after the motorcycle incident. During this time, I moved to Florida and learned to drive among the elderly, something that can be both entertaining and frustrating at the same time. It’s kind of like Art Linkletter’s old TV show, except named, “Fossils drive the darndest things.” Some of the elderly drivers are so small, you cannot see their heads, only their hands on the steering wheel which makes it appear the automobile is driving itself. Strange, very strange. Now and then you read about an oddball incident involving an elderly driver in the newspaper, for example; there was an incident where a man was trying to park his car in a mall parking lot. He entered the spot crooked and decided to backup and straighten the car out. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize his wife had already gotten out of the car and was standing behind him. When he backed up, he knocked her down and ran over her with his back tire, then he put the car back in drive and pulled forward over the “speed bump” for the second time. Then there was the story of an elderly couple who somehow found themselves driving on the Clearwater/St. Pete Airport’s runway thinking it was part of the expressway. I could go on and on with stories about the elderly driving, and they would all be funny if it wasn’t for the fact they end up doing a lot of damage to both themselves and others around them. Such was my misfortune.

About five years ago, I left my office in my SUV after work and headed home, just in time for rush hour. It also happened to be “snowbird” season, meaning our roads were filled with tourists. After exiting our office parking lot, I headed north on a main artery in Palm Harbor. As there was considerable traffic, I resigned myself to my fate that it would take quite some time to get home. Traffic lights were slow and caused lines to backup. In my case, I ended up at the very end of a long line. I thought I would never get home. As I sat there, I happened to look into my rear-view mirror and noticed the next motorist rapidly approaching me. I thought it was coming rather fast, but felt the driver would have ample time to stop. To my horror, I suddenly realized the car wasn’t going to decelerate, let alone stop. I braced myself for impact before the car plowed into me at about 40mph. Not only was I hit, but the car pushed me into the next car in front of me and I began to picture myself crushed like an accordion. Fortunately, this didn’t happen as the car behind me finally stopped. At first, I was stuck in my car stunned by what had just happened. Paramedics and police were summoned by a witness, and I snapped out of it. Only then did I find out what happened. Evidently, an elderly woman was driving home, became preoccupied with something in her purse, and didn’t realize anyone was stopped in front of her. The front-end of her car looked as bad as the back-end of mine, and the paramedics took care in extracting her from her vehicle and sending her to the hospital. To this day, I still keep a nervous eye on my rear-view mirror.

The pièce de résistance of my accidents though happened this past November, whereby I had gone to lunch at a local restaurant and left my car in the adjoining striped parking lot, believing it to be safe and sound. As it turns out, it was anything but that. As I settled into a Philly Cheese Steak, an elderly woman swung open the front door and yelled, “Does anyone own a black car? There’s been an accident in the parking lot.” She appeared to be rather upset and had tears on her face. She was heavyset and hobbled around with a cast on her right foot.

At first, I suspected it was the problem of somebody else as I had a dark-brown car, not black. Then it occurred to me she might be suffering from cataracts. I therefore got up and went outside to check my car. When I turned the corner to the parking lot, my eye saw a dark car with its rear-end up and on top of a silver Mitsubishi Eclipse. It was such a distorted scene, I didn’t recognize the vehicle as my own. In fact, it looked rather comical and I felt a brief sense of pity for the person who owned it. Then, the harsh reality came over me; it was my car after all, and a spirit of dread consumed me. “What happened to my car?” I demanded (although I said this with a fervent gusto as reality set in).

The elderly couple had left the restaurant just as we entered it, he in an electric wheelchair, and his wife hobbling around on her cast foot. After securing the wheelchair on the back of their Mazda mini-SUV, the husband got into the driver’s seat of the vehicle. He then put the SUV into reverse and began to backup. When he thought he had gone back far enough, he went to apply the brakes, which he missed and hit the accelerator instead, thereby plowing into the back of my car. Evidently, the wheelchair assembly on the back of his vehicle acted like a wedge and lifted up the rear of my car and pushed it up and on-top of the silver Mitsubishi next to me. Interestingly, a woman had been sitting in the driver’s seat sending a text message to a friend when the accident occurred. Realizing my car was being pushed up on top of her convertible, she bent down and escaped through the passenger’s side door. She would have certainly been crushed had my car fallen, but the convertible’s safety bar held and the woman escaped unharmed.

Thus began the long process of calling 911, the Florida State Highway Patrol, tow trucks to separate and remove the vehicles, and the tedium of notifying insurance carriers. Even though I hadn’t been in the car when the accident occurred, I certainly felt like a victim and became rather bitter about the experience. It proves that George Costanza of Seinfeld fame was right, you can eat and have sex simultaneously (by getting screwed when you least expect it). To see a brief video on the vehicles being separated, click HERE.

The next day I went to the web site of the Clerk of the Courts to see what I could find out about the person who hit me. As it turned out, since 1999 he had ten moving violations, everything from speeding, to failure to obey traffic signals, to operating a vehicle without insurance. Now this. This made me wonder what insurance carrier would provide coverage to someone with such a bad driving record. Further, why hadn’t the State of Florida revoked his license a long time ago. I have sympathy for the elderly and handicapped, but this was just plain ridiculous.

I know plenty of people in their 80’s and 90’s who can competently operate their vehicles down here, but many do not belong on the highway. Period. I have one friend in his mid-80’s who realized his eyesight was failing and was smart enough to voluntarily surrender his driver’s license to the sheriff’s office, but he is an exception as opposed to the rule in Florida. Most of the senior citizens need to get around town to tend to their chores, such as shopping and eating, but they pose a genuine threat to safety on the highways. I wish we could easily identify such people, so we can be more alert when they are around us, kind of like “belling the cat,” but alas, we cannot.

We can joke about the driving habits of the elderly, but anyone who doesn’t drive defensively around them is asking for trouble. Between them and the erratic driving habits of tourists visiting Florida during the winter months, I am frankly surprised more people are not killed on the highways in this state. Maybe we need to post signs on the highways as people enter the state: “Welcome to Florida, Home of Jurassic Driving. You’ve been warned.”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


NEXT UP: 
AMERICAN MORAL DILEMMAS – The country suffers from a decay of morality, not politics.


Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, (12:30-3:00pm).

Also look for Tim’s postings in the Palm Harbor Patch, The Gentlemen’s Association, and throughout the Internet.

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7 Responses to “JURASSIC DRIVING IN FLORIDA”

  1. Tim Bryce said

    An A.S. of Tampa, Florida wrote…

    “One topic that needs blogging is the State of Florida in cahoots with the auto insurance companies.

    Several years back I had a fender bender in a parking lot. I was backing out of my spot in a private parking strip and started heading in a legal direction when some young girl slammed her accelerator and rammed the driver side door. I immediately got out and took pictures. All well and good. I was deemed by her to be at fault and I was finally paid for her bad driving. Unfortunately, just recently, I went to apply for a better rate with another insurance company and they and several others wanted to surcharge me for that incident which was not deemed to be my fault.

    This behavior that the insurance companies are allowed to get away with is not only despicable, but so morally reprehensible and just grinds at the foundation of honesty. I was nice enough to inform my insurance company of this incident and some how this information made it’s way into an insurance data base only to be used against me at some future time….like now!”

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    A U.V. of Largo, Florida wrote…

    “Sorry about your cars. But the article is so true. My favorite was the airport runway. I hope I’m smart enough to know when to turn in my license.”

    Like

  3. Tim Bryce said

    An A.H. of Rochester, Kentucky wrote…

    “I wonder now that I am a “Fossil” how younger folks think. I just always tried to consider older folk as knowledge based friends. Some of the out of the ordinary can but funny or horrible and sad. Good post Tim.”

    Like

  4. Tim Bryce said

    An L.R. of Jamestown, New York wrote…

    “Remember as you ”discuss ” older drivers [residents and Snow Birds ] you have achieved that status of ”older driver” . U R 1
    I can empathize your motor cycle incident = been there / done that. Keep up the good works in reminding us –it’s o k to be human. “

    Like

  5. Tim Bryce said

    An M.B. of Clearwater, Florida wrote…

    ” I am so sorry these things happened to you. I hope there has been no permanent damage or arthritis to your spine or neck from it.

    I’ve had 2 accidents down here, both should have been fatal, and I was declared dead on the site of the second one. I ended up with permanent brain damage instead. I wish I had experienced the light and the tunnel, love and peace, etc., as it would have made all the crap I’ve gone through since a lot easier to bear. if I knew for sure there was justice after it’s over.

    Regarding older folks on the road here, I don’t know what else they can do down here, as there is next to no other affordable mode of transportation and everything is so far apart. Where I come from, you can easily live your entire life very comfortably without ever owning a car, which frees up a lot of cash to have a higher quality of life. Everyone uses the best bus system in the country, and loads of people walk and bike. In fact, I had to learn to drive at age 30 to be able to follow doctor’s orders and move down here! It is a pity there is no real public transit system for people here, or a super cheap senior taxi service. I also wonder if they ever really think through moving here to retire. Inevitably one of the couple will die, and the other is left alone in old age, far from family who love them and could help them out by driving them around, and also ease their loneliness. Is it really worth that to be a little warmer? I sure don’t think so; just stay home and turn the heat up.

    I’m glad you were not badly hurt and I hope it never happens again. I remember when I moved here a friend told me it was not a matter of “if” I would be in an accident, but only a matter of when and how bad it would be. The roads are horribly overcrowded too.”

    Like

  6. Tim Bryce said

    A W.A. of the Dominican Republic wrote…

    “Tim, you’d never make it in the DR. Multiply the danger of US 19 by 10 and you have what is considered normal driving here. So far, at the age of 70 and driving an SUV, I have been able to out maneuver everyone .”

    Like

  7. Tim Bryce said

    A B.W. of Macon, Georgia wrote…

    “I know exactly what you are talking about, and now we have the addition of cell phones. I lost my leg on a motorcycle because some one was angry at the welfare folks for not getting her check on time. No insurance.

    What we need to do plan for in the future is the dream of Walt Disney. Mass transportation by means of people movers. No vehicles allowed in the cities. Segway Human transporter being the exception. “Celebration” Florida I believe was built around this concept, although I have never visited there.

    My mother stopped driving at 81, my brother took her license when she was stopped doing 80 in a 40 MPH zone. At 70 I wonder how much longer I will be able to drive. So far eyesight and reactions seem to be fine.

    But I am alert to my driving and I can see some reactions slowing a bit. I will give up driving when I see my abilities on the wain.

    Fortunately, I have hundreds of friends who would be happy to drive me where I need to go. It will be hard to give up the freedom of the road, but I will be able to manage it. “

    Like

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