Monday, March 07, 2011

Florida’s Orwellian Attack on the Elderly

I couldn’t believe the article I read in last Sunday’s Sun Sentinel (March 5, 2011) reporting that Florida took away the driver’s licenses of 7,719 residents based on 9,105 anonymous accusers!
This is the result of a Florida policy allowing anybody to notify the state if they believe a person is mentally or physically incapable of safely driving their vehicle. The informant can obtain a form from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles or download the form from the Internet. The informant is anonymous and is not required to have proof that there is anything causing the driver they are turning in to drive unsafely. Not only does the informant remain anonymous, but should the victim of the informant feel or even prove that that the report was made carelessly or maliciously, “no civil or criminal action may be brought against any person who provides the information.”

Once the informant has made his report, investigators who work for the state make contact with the driver and submit their findings to a medical review section in Tallahassee. Investigators may interview family members, neighbors, or the driver’s physician as part of the investigation. The drive may be asked to submit a medical report from their physician or they may be required to report to a driver license office for retesting. How much confidence do you have in state investigators? I know that the ones who investigate children abused in foster homes haven’t been doing too good a job lately.

What this all means is that, if you don’t like the way somebody drives or even if you just don’t like somebody period, you can turn them in to the state and hope that their driver’s license is revoked. Almost 9 times out of 10, driver’s licenses are revoked on the basis of these reports so the odds are pretty good for the informants. But even if the driver’s license isn’t revoked, think of the aggravation, embarrassment and time consumed by these drivers to fight to keep their licenses. Clearly, most of those reports are made against the elderly and the elderly are often more vulnerable and less equipped to do battle with the state or he accuser.

Have you ever been driving and gotten angry because the driver in front of you was going too slowly? Maybe you’re late for something and the drivers in the left and right lanes won’t get out of your way. This can make anybody angry to the point where you might curse, blow your horn or flash your lights. I’m sure that many cases of violent road rage start with this scenario.
It’s very easy to obtain a person’s name and address once you know their license tag number. I wonder how many reports are made to Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles as a result of angry drivers in a hurry. You don’t even have to be angry at a person’s driving to report them. You might just have had an argument and decided this is a great, completely safe way to get even without the other person ever finding out.

I completely understand that we have lots of impaired drivers who shouldn’t be on the road. That’s why we require that drivers take driving tests periodically. I would fully support requiring older drivers to take more frequent hearing, vision, and driving tests. But I can’t believe that we have a system allowing anybody to anonymously inform on another with no responsibility or recourse. If a person has reasonable evidence to think another driver is impaired to the point he can’t drive safely, he should report him, but not anonymously. Everybody should have the right to face his accuser. The accused should also have the right to sue or prosecute the accuser if it can be proven the accusation was made carelessly or maliciously.

If you agree with me, contact your local state senator and representative and let them know how you feel about this Orwellian assault on Florida’s elderly drivers.

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