I haven't owned a car for about three years. It's not because of the environment; I was trying to save money. I used buses, taxis and Zipcar, which you rent by the hour. I picked up cars either at the Harlem/Lake parking lot or the Ridgeland Green Line station parking lot.
In May I insisted on renting a Zipcar and driving a friend to and from Glen Ellyn to the University of Chicago for chemotherapy. On my way to pick him up, I had a serious car accident. All I remember is a very loud crunching sound and then glass everywhere. I was T-boned on the driver's side by a truck that came 6-8 inches into my car.
I was very lucky. As they were cutting me out, I remember looking up at the ceiling of the car and seeing what I thought were lots of white ribbons. I remember asking if someone was having a party. They were the remains of air bags from the ceiling, which is a good argument for driving newer cars.
While I was in the emergency room, a policeman told me that six people said I had run a red light and was at fault. I have absolutely no memory of that, even now when my flashbacks have abated. I was ticketed, went to court, paid a fine and am under court supervision for a year.
I had already decided to stop driving when I was 75 (next year), simply because I had always been disgusted by old people who refused to give up the keys and wound up plowing into storefronts or playgrounds. So I just kicked my decision up a few months.
Then I went on vacation to an island where there's one four-way stop on the whole island. My kids agreed to let me drive their cars. I even drove my son-in-law's sports car once — at my age, I can still drive stick shift — although the dashboard was way too complicated. But I hated not having my own car and not being able to come and go as I pleased.
I don't mind taking taxis and buses here in town, and while I moved to Oak Park to get out of DuPage County, it's really hard not being independent. Zipcar's insurance was excellent, but they told me I could no longer be a "Zipster," as they call their clients. I haven't yet tried a regular car rental agency.
At least one of my doctors thinks I may have decided to stop driving too soon. Since Alzheimer's runs in my family, I had a workup a few months ago, and did better than I did on the previous one.
Most of my friends, some in their 80s, still drive, but tend to stay off the expressways. I could do that.
What do you think?
Mary Kay O'Grady writes on senior citizen issues at OakPark.com.
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