Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Older Drivers in More Fatal Accidents Pa. Has 4th Highest Number of Deaths in Senior Crashes

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Older Drivers in More Fatal Accidents Pa. Has 4th Highest Number of Deaths in Senior Crashes

Article excerpt

Ask 73-year-old Leo Parisi if he thinks older drivers pose a safety threat to themselves and others, and he'll give you a straight answer: "Yeah, I do ... to a degree."

Age "has nothing to do with driving ability," he adds. "It's the deterioration of the body that causes problems."

Mr. Parisi has been administering safety programs for older drivers since 1994, and his organization, Seniors for Safe Driving, expects to educate 15,000 to 16,000 people in Pennsylvania this year. His program is certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and under state law, participants 55 and older qualify for a 5 percent insurance discount.

"One of the things we spend a lot of time on is getting people to be aware of how their particular condition affects their driving," said Mr. Parisi, of Butler, a former professional baseball player, teacher and restaurateur.

The course tackles night driving, which can be problematic for older people as their vision declines and they become more susceptible to the glare of headlights.

"The big problem with seniors is their glare recovery time [at night]." It can be up to 10 seconds, he said, during which a car going 60 mph covers 880 feet.

While older drivers are far less likely than teens to cause crashes, a national study released Wednesday concluded that those 65 and older are involved in a disproportionately high percentage of fatal crashes.

Older drivers account for 8 percent of all miles driven, but 17 percent of traffic fatalities came in crashes where at least one driver was 65 or older, said the report issued by TRIP, a research nonprofit sponsored by insurance companies, highway and construction interests and labor unions.

Pennsylvania had the fourth-highest number of fatalities in crashes involving older drivers in 2010, with 265. Florida was at the top with 503 fatalities. Pennsylvania's 1.6 million older drivers make up 18 percent of the state's driving population, also fourth-highest in the U.S.

One in five fatal crashes in the state involved older drivers, the 12th-highest percentage in the nation and 3 percentage points above the national average, said the report, titled "Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile: Preserving the Mobility and Safety of Older Americans."

Among its recommendations were clearer, brighter and simpler signage with bigger lettering; brighter street lighting and pavement markings; training and evaluation programs for older drivers; and expanded public transit. …

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