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National Sheriff's Association
Traffic Safety Newsletter*


How to Make Sure Your Senior Loved Ones Are Driving Safely

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the highest number of motor vehicle fatalities occurs for drivers over the age of 70 and drivers under the age of 20. These fatalities include both automobile accidents involving other vehicles and pedestrians being hit. As we age, all of our senses are impacted by the lack of regeneration of our cells in all parts of our body and even if a senior has not been impacted by an age-related illness or memory loss, the physical capability to respond quickly will become slower. However, in the instance that memory loss or another degenerative disease, such as macular degeneration, is present, it is even more important to monitor driving capabilities as these diseases sometimes progress slowly, but still can have a major impact on physical and cognitive abilities.

As an accident cannot only cause death, but perhaps emotional and financial damage, many states have passed laws which require seniors to renew their driver's license in person or take a new written exam or actual driving skills test upon renewal. The easiest way for family members to begin a conversation about safe driving is to discuss the driving renewal process in the senior's home state to make sure they are in compliance. There are also may be programs available for elder drivers which make it easier to ask for a special review of their driving skills, such as in California where a complaint about a driver's capabilities can be filed and then the law enforcement agency will follow-up. Due to anti-age discrimination campaigns, approaches such as these were enacted, rather than mandatory driving tests at a certain age.

Everyone has heard an unfortunate story about an accident involving an older driver who perhaps did not have the vision, hearing, or awareness to avoid the accident. The farmer's market incident in Santa Monica, where a senior driver stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake, killing 10 people and leaving 63 injured, prompted action by state legislatures and community groups to help monitor when a senior might need to curb their driving. If you know an elder neighbor or loved one who is still driving, it is important to regularly montior their capabilities. Here is a checklist to assist you.

Safe Driving Checklist

Vision: Is the senior able to pass a vision test? (Cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration can all impact vision quality).
Dents: Are there any unexplained dents in the paint of the car or on the garage?
Passengers: Does the senior allow others to ride in the car with them when they are driving?
Emotions: Does the senior seem nervous or extra anxious when driving?
Routes: Does the senior take alternate routes to avoid major highways?
Obey Traffic Signals: Does the senior fail to stop at red lights or stop signs?
Speed Limits: Are speed limits obeyed (not driving too slow or too fast)?
Complaints: Have neighbors or others who see the senior driving (anyone who also attends a regular event they may drive to) observed anything unsafe?

If any of these raise red flags, find a time to discuss the senior's safety with them and come up with alternative transportation solutions to propose. You may also want to involve a third-party who is not related to the senior or a close friend, to serve as an authority who can listen to all concerns and propose other options for the senior. You may also want to check the senior driving laws in your state to find out if you can lean on the officials to assist you with terminating your senior loved one's driving. it is not easy to give up the independence of driving, but it is much worse to be the cause of a serious accident which could have been prevented.

National Safety Council Estimates That At Least 1.6 Million Crashes Are Caused Each Year by Drivers Using Cell Phones and Texting

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Safety Council announced today that it estimates at least 28% of all traffic crashes -- or at least 1.6 million crashes each year -- are caused by drivers using cell phones and texting. NSC estimates that 1.4 million crashes each year are caused by drivers using cell phones and a minimum of 200,000 additional crashes each year are caused by drivers who are texting. The announcement came on the one-year anniversary of NSC's call for a ban on all cell phone use and texting while driving.

"We now know that at least 1.6 million crashes are caused by drivers using cell phones and texting," said Janet Froetscher, president & CEO of the National Safety Council. "We know that cell phone use is a very risky distraction and texting is even higher risk. We now know that cell phone use causes many more crashes than texting. The main reason is that millions more drivers use cell phones than text," she said. "That is why we need to address both texting and cell phone use on our roads."

"This new estimate provides critical data for legislators, business leaders and individuals to evaluate the threat and need for legislation, business policies and personal actions to prevent cell phone use and texting while driving," Froetscher said. "There was great progress made in 2009, particularly regarding a broad recognition that texting is dangerous. We now need the same broad consensus that recognizes cell phone use while driving causes even more crashes."

Froetscher said public support for laws banning cell phone use while driving is gaining momentum.

"Public opinion research conducted in 2009 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and Nationwide Insurance show public support for total bans on cell phones at 43 and 57 percent respectively," Froetscher said. "With public support now around 50 percent, we will continue to educate people about the risks of cell phone use while driving and the value of effectively-enforced laws in changing behavior and reducing crashes."

In constructing its estimates, NSC used widely-accepted statistical methods and analysis based on data of driver cell phone use from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and from peer-reviewed research that quantifies the risk of using a cell phone and texting while driving. NSC's statistical model and estimates were peer-reviewed by academic researchers in traffic safety and biostatistics.

The estimate of 25% of all crashes -- or 1.4 million crashes -- caused by cell phone use was derived from NHTSA data showing 11% of drivers at any one time are using cell phones and from peer-reviewed research reporting cell phone use increases crash risk by four times. The estimate of an additional minimum 3% of crashes -- or 200,000 crashes -- caused by texting was derived by NHTSA data showing 1% of drivers at any one time are manipulating their device in ways that include texting and from research reporting texting increases crash risk by 8 times. Using the highest risk for texting reported by research of 23 times results in a maximum of 1 million crashes due to texting; still less than the 1.4 million crashes caused by other cell phone use.

The National Safety Council (www.nsc.org) saves lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the roads, through leadership, research, education and advocacy.

SOURCE National Safety Council


Teenagers are Still Texting While Driving
Source: DailyTech

Regardless of the new bans, research shows that teenage drivers are still texting while driving.

Nearly 1 in 4 teenage drivers admit to texting while driving, with half of all teenagers admitting they’ve been in a vehicle with a teenage driver who was texting.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research numbers indicate drivers under the age of 20 had the highest number of distracted-driving fatalities in 2008. In the No. 2 spot, according to research, are the drivers between the ages of 20 to 29.

In motor accidents related to distracted driving, 5,870 people were killed and 515,000 injured in 2008 from drivers who were texting, talking, or otherwise distracted while driving.

However, the NHTSA research doesn’t differentiate between reading and sending text messages, with some teenagers admitting they’re more likely to read — not respond — to text messages while driving.

Auto analysts believe the number of
teenage drivers texting could be significantly higher than currently reported.

Despite understanding the possible dangers of texting and driving, teenagers admit they know it’s dangerous — and illegal in some states — but continue to do it anyway.

Many adults also admit to texting and talking while driving, and do not project safe driving habits to their children, according to safety experts.

As the popularity of texting continues to increase, there is a concern texting while driving will also increase through 2010.
Ford and other automakers have led educational campaigns against texting and driving, but its efforts have largely gone unnoticed.


Most older drivers are unaware of effects of prescription medication, AAA Foundation study finds

Only slightly more than a quarter of adults over age 55 are aware their medications have side effects that could impair their driving, a study found.

A study of older drivers concluded that barely a quarter of them were aware of the potential dangerous effects their medications can have on their driving,
USA Today reported.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety interviewed 630 adults ages 56-93 about medications and driving. Only 28 percent of people knew that their medications could affect their driving ability, and the awareness of potential side effects decreased with age. Alarmingly, awareness dropped off around the same age that people increase the number of prescriptions they take, the paper said.

The AAA Foundation is a non-profit research group working to prevent traffic crashes and reduce injuries.

"We as a society are not getting the message to these older driver,"
Peter Kissinger
, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation, told USA Today. "Health care professionals need to do a better job of educating patients. Family members of older drivers need to be much more engaged. They need to find out what medications their relatives are on, talk to a pharmacist if necessary. It's something that could avoid a catastrophe."

According to the AAA Foundation, the number of drivers age 55 and older will increase by more than half by 2030, USA Today stated.

*Excerpts taken from National Sheriff's Association Traffic Safety Newsletter are meant to be used for educational purposes only.