Dear Annie: You frequently print the essay “Dead at Seventeen” by John Berrio, about the dangers of reckless driving by teenagers.
I’ve written a version of it that addresses the growing danger posed by older drivers who should no longer be driving. – Paul O. Ketro, M.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston
Killed at Seven
I am in agony. He is a statistic. He is one of many, many others whose bodies are as badly mangled as his – their category is called “Killed by Senior Drivers.” The day I killed him was an ordinary day. How I wish that I had taken the bus. But I was too good for the bus. I remember how I ignored my adult children, who begged me not to drive anymore. I said, “All of my friends drive. I want my independence.” I guess I was just kidding myself by thinking that if I only drove slowly and on familiar streets, I could still drive safely. Later on, I found out that a child had run out ahead of my car chasing a ball. I didn’t really see him. My vision isn’t that great anymore – but I can renew my driver’s license by mail, so my vision doesn’t get checked very often. I felt a bump on the car, and I heard a scream. Then the boy hit my windshield, and I finally noticed him. Glass flew everywhere. Suddenly it was very quiet. Then there were sirens. The ambulance arrived, and they pulled a sheet over the boy’s head.
Hey! Don’t pull that sheet over his head! He’s only 7! He has a ball game this afternoon. He was supposed to have a wonderful life ahead of him. He hasn’t lived yet. He can’t be dead. His mother was there. She was heartbroken. His father came out, too – they’re my neighbors. He suddenly looked very old. I told the police officer that the gas pedal had gotten stuck – because that’s what older drivers often say when they hit someone. It’s a small town, and everyone is in a daze. People see me and look away. No one can believe it. I can’t believe it, either.
Please, somebody – wake him up! I can’t bear to see his mom and dad in such pain.
Please don’t bury him! He’s not dead! He has a lot of living to do! He wants to laugh and run again. Please don’t put him in the ground. I promise if you give me just one more chance, God, I won’t drive again. All I want is one more chance. Please, God, he was only 7.