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San Diego Researchers Promote Safe Driving For Seniors

Preparing For Increase Of Older Drivers

California has more than 3 million elderly drivers, more than any other state in the country. That number is expected to double as more baby boomers retire over the next 10 to 20 years. Some researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine are working to promote driving safety for seniors.

Getting older doesn't mean the end of a person's driving days, but it does require seniors to evaluate, improve and maintain a safe driving record. Jim Gleason is a driving instructor who specializes in working with seniors.


"Many of these individuals never took a formal drivers education class when they were younger. They came to California, they took the written test, got their license and were driving another 20 to 30 years and never took the road test and now when faced with it they get blind sided," said leason, an instructor with American Driving School. He says a family member can even report a problem if necessary to the DMV.

"If they feel that this person poses a safety issue. It happened with my mother. She had to turn my grandfather in years ago when she had a concern with his ability to drive. The DMV did intervene and he did lose his license," Gleason said.

By 2020, highway safety experts say there will be more than 40 million drivers over the age of 65. California already has the greatest number of older drivers with more than 3.1 million. That number is expected to grow to 6 million by 2030. Researchers and law enforcement urge all drivers to abstain from alcohol, wear seat belts and keep their eyes on the road. Because even seniors have been caught using their cellphones while driving.

"Driving distracted is the same as driving under the influence of increases your crash risk four times. So our message to older adults is have really good driving habits and take generally good care of your health and your driving career will be prolonged," said Dr. Linda Hill, a clinical professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

For the sixth consecutive year, the Training, Research and Education for Driving Safety, or TREDS, program at UC San Diego has been awarded a state grant to promote driving safety in older adults.


Hill's team says more focus has to be given to things that can be done to prolong safe driving. Families must begin talking about driving before a problem is suspected and any concerns should be openly discussed.

Physicians should be included in these conversations, as they can advise on appropriate screening, nutrition and physical activity guidelines. The DMV provides a senior guide for safe driving as well as the California drivers handbook to brush up on the rules of the road.

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