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A Crash Course For Senior Drivers

Audio

Aired 1/19/11

Doctors at UCSD School of Medicine have teamed up with the California Highway Patrol to help keep older drivers safe behind the wheel.

— The program’s goal is to reduce collisions involving senior drivers.

Recent data from the California Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV shows senior drivers are tied with male teen drivers for the highest rate of collision accidents in the state.

Due to age-related health issues, seniors are more likely to die in those crashes.
That’s why Dr. Linda Hill supports standard screening for drivers over age 65.

Hill is a clinical professor at the UCSD Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. She said the criteria for screening senior drivers should be based on health, not age.

“We know that older adults out-live their driving age by six years in men and 10 years in women," she said. "But where they cross the line is not so much dependent on age as it is dependent on the individuals' medical conditions."

Hill and the CHP insist, however, that they are not trying to get seniors off the road.

Instead, the program is about educating law enforcement, families and even doctors on how to determine if a senior is well enough to drive safely.

“If we screen people for driving problems, then many of those can be rehabilitated through physical therapy and occupational therapy and the driving life of an individual can be extended,” said Hill.

The joint program is called KEYS for “Keeping Everyone Safe.” It is funded by three grants from the state Office of Traffic Safety.

Charles Fenner is the director of the senior-ombudsman program for the State of California. He says the DMV also offers free, customized-driving programs for seniors.

“We’ll even come to a senior’s home to develop a personalized driving program, showing them safer alternative driving routes,” Fenner said.

Free driving assessments for seniors and their families are available online through several organizations, including the Association of Driver Rehabilitation Specialists.

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