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Senior drivers just as safe as others on the road

July 16, 2010
Lyle Halvorson

In response to Lloyd Omdahl's July 10 column, which appeared in the Pierce County Tribune, about older drivers, safety has to be everyone's priority.

We are all responsible for monitoring our own driving skills and abilities and for monitoring the driving of our family members young and old. Unsafe drivers should not be driving. But age by itself doesn't cause accidents.

A report released in June by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), refutes stubborn stereotypes about older drivers. The study found that crash rates for older drivers dropped from 1997-2008, despite the increase in older Americans behind the wheel due to America's aging population.

The new IIHS report reinforces what safety experts already know: age by itself doesn't cause car crashes. Most older drivers are safe drivers and exercise personal responsibility. For example, the report found that many older drivers were limiting their own driving at night and on high-speed roads.

Despite Omdahl's assertion, there is no test that predicts which drivers are likely to have a crash. So far, the most effective way to keep unsafe drivers off the road is in-person license renewal. AARP supports regular in-person license renewal for drivers of all ages. People should renew their licenses regularly and in person and signs that a person's driving might be impaired should be identified and evaluated. There is no silver bullet drivers test, but California and Maryland are piloting methods to identify impairments that would affect drivers' safety.

There are several established programs, including the AARP Driver Safety Program, that help older North Dakotans refresh their driving skills and include materials that may help them evaluate their fitness to drive. Scores of classes are conducted across the state on a regular basis. For more information about the AARP Driver Safety Program or to find a nearby class, go to www.aarp.org/drive.

In North Dakota, AARP has partnered with the Highway Patrol to conduct "We Need to Talk: Family Conversations with Older Drivers." This 90-minute seminar helps family members learn how to have productive conversations with older drivers about their driving or even about hanging up the keys. You can contact the state AARP office in Bismarck or any regional Highway Patrol office for more information about this 90-minute seminar.

People are living longer. Transportation is especially vital in rural areas of North Dakota where people need to travel for basic needs like groceries and medical care. To hang up the keys, they need alternative ways to get around. Alternatives like transit services, driving services and neighborhoods geared towards life without a car are key to ensuring that people remain productive, happy and connected to their family, friends, and community.

We are all responsible for keeping up our skills and monitoring our loved ones' driving old, young, parents or adult children. We all want the same thing keeping our roads safe for ourselves and our loved ones.

Halvorson is the communications director for AARP in North Dakota.

 
 

 

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