Invasion from Florida

I’m not exactly sure why it’s not illegal for Floridians over the age of 75 to drive …. at least not without a yearly test proving them capable of operating a motor vehicle and or being able to see the road in front of them. And it’s bad enough that they drive in Florida and cause accidents and kill people down there. Now, they are driving here in NY … “back home”  … in droves … higher numbers than we have ever seen before. And if they are not a capable driver in Florida, I really do not know why they think they can drive on Long Island.

There are 3 types of 75+ Floridian drivers:

1) The type that drives about 5 miles an hour in the right lane no matter where they are, won’t drive at night, won’t make left turns and won’t take highways.
2) The type that thinks they are still 35 and they drive that way despite the fact that they no longer have the visual acuity or mental response of a 65 year old, let alone a 35 year old.
3) The lucky few who have their eyesight and wits about them, and who can still control a motor vehicle relatively well, despite their age.

Anyone who is a type 3 should be singled out, somehow. I don’t know; maybe wear a cape or something?? My aunt is 81 years old and is type #1. She has been hit 3 times in the last 2 years by type #2 … while she was standing still.

Now, I’m all for independence, especially as we baby boomers are coming into the land of the aged (is it really true?? So scary!) but don’t we agree that this is like giving a 5 year old a loaded handgun?? Is a 1-1/2 ton vehicle really safer than a gun? I don’t think so. At least you can outrun the 5 year old.  On the road, all cars that go up to 80 miles an hour are created fairly equal despite what the driver thinks he/she can or cannot control.

We’ve heard this all before. Yes, the 75+ set does have a very high accident rate, especially in Florida. Yes, some kind of testing may be a fair way to control the situation. I know what you’re thinking. But don’t poo-poo it. When we think that these 75+ people are our parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, brothers & sisters and friends … don’t we want them to be safe, despite the limitation? I think even they would agree. No one wants to kill someone … which, in some ways, is worse than getting  killed. After leading an honest life filled with family and friends … a life of struggles and joy, pain and happiness … the last thing anyone  would ever want to do is put a capper on the whole thing by murdering  someone with their car. It’s not hand-holding. It’s a public safety matter.

We come to a very different situation when these questionably skilled drivers drive elsewhere, i.e.,; Snowbirds. Probably the most vile word in the English language. Locals in Florida, Arizona Georgia and North and South Carolina despise the broods of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut septuagenarians invading their territory every October. On the same hand, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut residents under the age of 60 aren’t particularly pleased when said folks return in April or May.

This year, for some reason, most of them came back in June. And they invaded like a swarm of locusts on a corn field. I have NEVER seen as many Florida license plates on Long Island in all my years of living  here. I counted. On one trip on the Southern State, there was one FL plate to every 15 NY plates. That’s a lot. And it’s increasing 10 fold every year and will be out of hand when those Snowbirds are baby boomers.

Yes …. the Florida license plate on Long Island. It is a putrid site. One of the most hated in the land. Because upon seeing the Florida license plate, we know what will ensue. At the least, one lane, 20 MPH driving in a 40 MPH zone . At the worst, a left turn from the right lane. (Seriously. People from Florida over 75 think they have a right to do this. Why, we don’t know.)

So here we are at the light. You are behind a Snowbird in a white 1999 Chevy Malibu. It changes. But the Snowbird thinking there are 5 more lanes like there is in Florida sits at the light and is offended greatly that you beeped your horn at him. It was only 30 seconds. So you have to go to work. He’s a veteran! Besides, he was too busy looking for the dollar store while taking confusing directions from the missus.

Don’t laugh. This actually happened to me. And they did go to the dollar store afterward.

There are Snowbirds who have a little more money and fly back to NY every May, and they also have their own NYS vehicle, maintained in a garage, awaiting their return, aptly equipped with (hopefully, current) NYS plates.

“How do you know it’s a Snowbird?” you ask.

Well, it’s fairly easy. The most obvious way is to take a gander over your right shoulder as you are passing  them, shaking your head or giving them the finger (or both). 75+ people who live here all year round are much more aware of what is “normal” on NY roads, something which the Snowbirds have completely forgotten, and are much more alert, savvier drivers. They may drive slightly slower than people younger than they, but at least they haven’t had their brain fried in the Florida sun for 8 months, destroying their memory of anything that ever happened in NY. And the 75+ residents drive in the snow in the winter. Survive the season, and it makes you an honorary Mario Andretti …. replete with trophies.

If you are behind one, there are many good clues to be able to spot a Snowbird with NY plates. First, the 2-toned blue and white cap with the mesh in the back is a dead giveaway. No one in NY wears those. Maybe in Jersey by the shore. But not here. Second are the 2-6 American Flags flapping in the breeze from the sides of their 2002 gold Lincoln Continental. Like the President is in town or something. Yeah, people did it here after 9-11, but now even the 75+ residents know it’s passe and opt for those silly, but less flamboyant, magnets on their trunk (Shortly after 9-11, I actually saw a guy with a full-sized flag sticking out of his window. Patriotism is nice, but don’t be an idiot.)

Once they get out of the car, the light blue pants with the blue, white or blue and white golf shirt is another clue. Substitute yellow or any other sherbet color here, btw, anywhere I say blue. It’s the same thing.

I found one driving to the motor shop to get his vehicle “revamped” after sitting over the winter. At least, that’s what he told me after he hit me. So, a 75+ leaving a motor shop may just be one clue, but mine had a blue and white hat with the mesh in the back, light blue pants, white shirt. When he got out of the car, I immediately knew the situation before he said a word.

So, bottom line, which is worse? I say, the Snowbird who flies in. The “fly and drive” Snowbird, being wealthy enough to keep a fairly new car here, undriven, in a garage for 8 months and one down in Florida, as well, will feel some degree of “entitlement” which we, poorer Long Islanders are already used to dealing with their younger counterparts. So basically, we’re talking about bad drivers with bad attitudes here. At least, when you see Florida plates, you know that the person made the 1200 mile trek from Miami, so that counts for some higher degree of driving aptitude, regardless if they drive here slowly.

Unless, of course, their car was trucked here on a flatbed or put on a train.

Good luck and keep your eyes open. It’s only going to get worse.

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