MVA: Aim your sights at little old guys in hats


THE HEADLINE in the morning paper said "MVA to test older drivers." So of course I immediately became concerned, as I am getting up there in age and can look like Carroll O'Connor if the light is just so.

But it turns out the Motor Vehicle Administration wants to test drivers even older than me -- drivers 65 and up -- to check their reactions, vision, whether they have all their marbles, etc. But if the MVA really wants to make the roads safer, they should go after the driver that I've railed about for years in this space.

They should go after the little old guy with a hat.

If you've ever been stuck behind a little old guy with a hat, you know what I'm talking about. In the first place, every little old guy with a hat drives at least 20 mph below the speed limit.

Or he'll have his turn signal blinking for 15 miles.

Or he won't bother to use his turn signal. He'll just slam on the brakes and turn whenever he feels like it.

OK, if you're the MVA, how do you go after people like that? Simple.

First thing you do is, you call every male in the state with a driver's license.

And the first question you ask is: "Sir, how tall are you?"

What you're looking for here is a guy whose head does not reach above the steering wheel.

A guy who has to peer under the top of the wheel to see the road, even if he's sitting on a couple of phone books.

If the guy on the phone says he's 5-foot-6 or shorter, you move onto the next question, which is: "Sir, how old are you?" If he says he's 65 or 70, he's probably not the little old guy you're looking for. He's probably too spry yet.

But if he says he's 75 or 80, get out the red marking pencil and circle his name.

Then you hit him with the last question, the key question: "Sir, do you currently wear a fedora or Panama hat while driving?"

Here, of course, is where it gets tricky.

Because a lot of little old guys will sense where you're going with this and dodge the question.

For instance, maybe they'll say: "Oh, no, I never wear a fedora or a Panama hat." But what they won't volunteer is that they wear a Greek fisherman's cap, which is basically the same thing.

Believe me, little old guys with Greek fisherman's caps are every bit as annoying on the road as little old guys with fedoras or Panama hats.

(On the other hand, if he wears a baseball cap, he's probably an OK driver. I don't know why this is. But little old guys in baseball caps just seem peppier and more alert. Unless, of course, it's a baseball cap that says something like: "Veteran of World War I.")

Anyway, if the guy on the phone says yes to all three questions -- boom -- you send a team of examiners over to his house immediately.

If he won't give you his address, no problem.

Just keep him talking and get the phone company to trace the line, just like they do in the movies.

That way, he'll still be on the phone when the MVA van screeches up to his house and four guys in white lab coats jump out and take him away for tests.

Sound too harsh? Too repressive?

Maybe. But we have to do something with these people.

If it comes down to denying them certain basic constitutional rights, well, that's the way it'll have to be.

Let me tell you a story about what happened to me last month on a road in Lancaster, Pa.

Lancaster, of course, is the heart of Amish country. And usually when you're driving there, you worry about getting stuck on a two-lane road behind an Amish guy in a horse-drawn buggy.

Just my luck: I got stuck behind a little old guy with a hat. Take it from me, an Amish guy in a buggy drives like Jeff Gordon compared to a little old guy with a hat.

Anyway, this little old guy with a hat was a piece of work. He was poking along at about 27 mph. I was stuck behind him for about eight miles, with a half-dozen more cars stuck behind me.

Finally we get to a red light and an intersection. I pull up alongside the guy, ready to floor it and screech off ahead of him.

When he sees me, he rolls down his window. And he says: "Boy, it's a beautiful day, isn't it?"

I'm sorry. But people with that kind of attitude just don't belong on the roads.

Pub Date: 11/12/98

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