Schemery Zicolello

Fatal accidents a growing problem for elderly drivers

As the population in Pennsylvania ages, more and more older drivers are out on the road. Pennsylvania has a particularly large number of elderly drivers: The state ranks fourth in the country in terms of the percentage of licensed drivers over age 65, and fifth in the total number of drivers over age 65.

Unfortunately, that means a lot of older drivers are involved in deadly car accidents as well. Pennsylvania ranked fourth in fatal traffic accidents in 2010 in which a driver over 65 was involved, with 265 fatalities.

This number trailed only three states with very large populations: Florida, California and Texas. The percentage of older drivers is expected to grow over the next several years to about 20 percent by 2025, so more and more elderly people will be on the road than ever before.

Several proposals have been offered to ease the burdens of older drivers on the road, such as clearer and simpler highway signs with easy-to-read text and graphics; longer ramps to get on and off highways; and appropriate standards for issuing driver's licenses. Increasing the reliability and convenience of public transportation might be another way to transition older drivers away from their cars.

Part of the reason is that so many older drivers are involved in fatal accidents is that their bodies are not in ideal shape to survive a trauma as well as a younger person would. The average 80-year-old driver would be expected to have more existing medical issues than would a driver half that age, for example.

Source: The Morning Call, "Older drivers involved in more traffic accidents," Dan Hartzell, Feb. 23, 2012

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