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Wolf Administration Highlights Older Driver Safety

12/03/2018

Family, Friends Urged to Get Involved

Harrisburg, PA – With the number of older drivers on the rise in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Department of Aging (PDA) hosted an event today at the Commonwealth Keystone Building in Harrisburg to highlight the importance of older driver safety. To highlight Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, December 3-7, the administration urges motorists of all ages to assess and sharpen their driving skills.

“It’s essential for older drivers and their family members to speak openly about what they’ll do when it is time to hang up the keys for safety’s sake.” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards.

Approximately 22 percent of Pennsylvania’s 8.9 million licensed drivers are 65 and older. In 2017, there were 21,319 crashes involving a driver 65 and older, resulting in 270 fatalities. This represents nearly 17 percent of the total crashes in Pennsylvania and nearly 24 percent of the fatalities.

“As Pennsylvania’s aging population continues to grow, the Wolf Administration is committed to ensuring that our seniors have the resources they need to remain active in, and connected to, their community,” said Secretary Osborne. “Whether it’s an older driver needing to make adjustments in order to drive safely, or if it’s determined that they can no longer do so, the local Area Agency on Aging is there to assist seniors and their families with the various alternative transportation services that are available to meet their needs.” 

There is a growing network of services dedicated to keeping older adults mobile, safe and engaged in their community. In fiscal year 2016-17, over 140,000 older Pennsylvanians accessed transportation services through their local Area Agencies on Aging, totaling more than 1.6 million rides.

While every person ages differently, aging typically brings certain -- sometimes subtle -- physical, visual and cognitive changes that could impair an older person’s ability to drive safely. Older drivers and their families should work together to identify potential issues that may affect driving, outline courses of action to assist the older driver, and plan for when it’s time to hang up the keys.

Signs that can indicate it may be time to limit or stop driving altogether include:

  • Feeling uncomfortable, fearful, or nervous when driving;
  • Unexplained dents/scrapes on the car, fences, mailboxes, or garage doors;
  • Frequently getting lost and frequent “close calls” (i.e. almost crashing);
  • Slower response times, particularly to unexpected situations;
  • Difficulty paying attention to signs or staying in the lane of traffic; and
  • Trouble judging gaps at intersections or highway entrance/exit ramps.

Safety Press Officer for PennDOT District 8 Fritzi Schreffler discussed CarFit, an educational program created by the American Society on Aging and developed with AAA, AARP, and the American Occupational Therapy Association, designed to help older drivers find out how well they currently fit their personal vehicle, to learn how they can improve their fit, and to promote conversations about driver safety and community mobility.

The Wolf Administration encourages older drivers and their loved ones to review PennDOT’s Seniors Driving Safely publication series, which can be downloaded for free from the PennDOT Driver and Vehicle Services website. These publications help older drivers assess their abilities and offer guidance on next steps if their medical condition is reported to PennDOT. The series also includes a publication designed to guide family and friends of older drivers in what can sometimes be difficult conversations about deciding to stop driving, as well as information for healthcare providers on PennDOT’s medical reporting program.

The following safe-driving habits, which should be routine at any age, are especially useful to older drivers:

  • Plan ahead: lengthy car trips should be made during daylight hours. Morning may be best because most people aren’t as tired as they are in the afternoon. 
  • Don’t drive in rush-hour traffic if you can avoid it. Plan trips after 9:00 AM or before 5:00 PM. Know what roads near home are most congested and avoid them.
  • When driving long distances, especially in winter, call ahead for weather and road condition updates.
  • Look ahead. Good drivers get a jump on trouble by looking far down the road and making adjustments before encountering problems that may involve other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists or animals. 
  • Maintain a safe speed. This depends on what the road is like, how well the driver can see, how much traffic there is and how fast traffic is moving.
  • Keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you. The PA Driver’s Manual advises that you should always keep a 4-second gap between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Additional information on older driver safety and mobility resources is available at both PennDOT Driver and Vehicle Services and the Department of Aging websites.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Alexis Campbell, PennDOT, 717-787-0485; Drew Wilburne, Aging, 717-705-3702


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