Elderly drivers under scrutiny



    Stewart Campbell sits neatly dressed in his chair in a black shirt and pressed khaki pants. He smiles, and his blue eyes light up while he talks about one of his loves — a ’74 metallic blue Cadillac convertible with the largest available engine made by Cadillac.

    Campbell likes dancing on Friday nights, skiing is his favorite sport, and he is going places — in his car. He is also 100 years old. Campbell is one of Utah’s oldest drivers. Life is looking great, and his driving record is even better.

    Even as Utah’s fifth oldest person, Campbell said nothing is stopping him from going out on the town. But after an 86-year-old man in Santa Monica, Calif., killed 10 people and injured 44 others, older drivers are now under some scrutiny.

    “I think they should go through yearly testing and a yearly renewal checkup on their visions and reflexes,” said John Porter, a BYU senior from Slidell, La., majoring in sociology. “Teenage kids might take stupid risks, but, on the other extreme, elderly drivers who can’t see are equally or more dangerous because they have no idea what is going on.”

    Campbell has been driving for 90 years, longer than any teenager has been alive, and for his 100th birthday, Utah made him renew his license.

    If the state tried to take it away, Campbell had a few words for them.

    “No way,” he said. “My driving record is better than most younger kids. They told me that I was good till 2004.”

    On his 10th birthday, Campbell’s dad handed him some car keys while everyone else was riding horses. His girlfriend was the sheriff’s daughter.

    “Everyone had horses back then,” Campbell said. “The sheriff couldn’t even drive, and he told my dad he didn’t like me driving around his daughter. In those days there were no traffic lights, no regulations of any kind, so there were no laws being broken.”

    Laws are different now. But the elderly in Utah are not singled out unless they fail an eye exam.

    Michael Siler, public affairs director for AARP Utah said, “There really isn’t anything in Utah, other than an eye exam for people who have reached the age of 65.”

    Campbell has never worn glasses, and he says his last appointment went well. The doctor brought up one concern.

    The doctor said to Campbell, “I don’t know how … you can drive and ski, and you can dance, but you can’t walk, Stew. You can’t even walk.”

    Campbell’s response was a bit witty.

    “I say with a beautiful girl in your arms, it’s worth two shots of morphine,” he said.

    Utah’s Driver’s License Division makes sure all drivers are safe drivers, not just the elderly.

    “Our teenage drivers and our older drivers are about in the same category,” said Judy Hamaker-Mann, director of Drivers License Division in Utah. “They both cause far more crashes than anyone else proportionally to the population; however, medical conditions can happen very rapidly to anyone. We do a lot of screening on all drivers, not just aged based.”

    Campbell has a love for the car he drives. When a committee for the July 24 parade found out about his car, they had to get their hands on it.

    “They called me up and told me I was sporting one of the prettiest cars in Salt Lake City,” he said. “I said you’re wrong. It is the prettiest car in Salt Lake. It is the prettiest, not one of the prettiest. They couldn’t use it unless I was the driver.”

    Campbell said he still drives to Las Vegas and San Francisco.

    Campbell celebrated his 100th birthday on Aug. 18, 2003 and said he had one wish that would make him happy.

    “I want to drive a Ferrari,” he said.

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