Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

New Study Finds Fatality Rate Rising among Older Drivers Better Road Designs, Signage Would Help

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

New Study Finds Fatality Rate Rising among Older Drivers Better Road Designs, Signage Would Help

Article excerpt

States should do more to make roads safer for older drivers, who are at an increasing risk of dying in crashes, a national study released Tuesday recommended.

The fatality rate of drivers age 65 or older is increasing faster than their percentage of all drivers, according to the 27-page study by TRIP, a national transportation research group.

But Pennsylvania is bucking that trend: Deaths of older drives have actually decreased in recent years.

Pennsylvania has done some of the things TRIP recommended in the study, which suggested larger signs with brighter lights, more roundabouts to reduce turns across traffic, and longer entrance and exit lanes. Older drivers can have diminished eyesight and reduced reflexes that lead to problems in estimating the speed and distance of other vehicles and safely making driving decisions, the study said.

"The positive sign is more older Americans are leading more active lifestyles," said Rocky Moretti, director of policy and research for TRIP. "The negative is an even higher percentage are dying in traffic accidents."

From 2012 to 2016, the number of U.S. drivers age 65 or older increased from about 36 million to 41.7 million, about 16 percent, but the number of older drivers killed jumped from 3,741 to 4,204, or about a 21 percent increase.

The best way to help all drivers, but especially older ones, would be to "eliminate the ambiguity" that insufficient road signs, poor lighting and other shortcomings can create, Mr. Moretti said.

"The challenge is to create a roadway environment for older drivers, and really all drivers, that's as safe as it can be," he said. "These are cost-effective changes."

The study showed that in 2015, 74 percent of fatal crashes for older drivers occurred in the daytime, 70 percent on weekdays and 67 percent involved other vehicles. The numbers for all fatalities were starkly different: 49 percent were in daylight, 59 percent on weekdays and 44 percent involved another vehicle.

Intersections seem to be a particular problem for older drivers. In 2016, 37 percent of fatal crashes with one driver 65 or older occurred at intersections, but only 20 percent of fatal crashes for drivers under 65 occurred at intersections. …

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