Transportation
6:21 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Empowering Senior Drivers And Keeping Them Safe

In Pennsylvania, drivers must renew their licenses every four years.  Motorists 65 and older have the option to renew every two years but are not required to do so, and they don't have to take another driving test.

So PennDOT and law enforcement officials want to keep elderly drivers safe while preserving their independence. During this week there are several events being held across southwestern Pennsylvania to highlight safety for older drivers.

PennDOT and the Allegheny County Police Department are conducting a traffic safety presentation for mature drivers in the Penn Hills area focused on issues that most often impact seniors including pedestrian safety, medications, impaired driving, as well as the importance of seatbelts.

PennDOT spokesperson Steve Cowan said the intent isn’t to discourage senior drivers, but rather to educate them and keep them safe.  

“We realize that driving is essential for the quality of life for mature drivers. Having the ability to remain independent is important. We just want to make sure that mature drivers remain safe.”

He said this year there have been 29 fatalities of drivers who are over the age of 60.   "That’s about one third of all the fatalities in Allegheny County, so it is important that mature drivers hear and listen to our safety message.”

One of the hardest things to deal with is when family members might be “too old” to drive and should probably “hand over the keys.” Cowan feels the best way is to simply have an open and honest conversation with them.

While there is no across-the-board mandatory retesting for senior drivers in Pennsylvania, Cowan said some are randomly selected for examination.  "Each month nearly 2,000 individuals over the age of 45 are chosen at random to go through the retesting.  They retest your vision and give you a physical examination."

Physicians for those selected drivers must then answer a series of medical questions before their patients' drivers licenses are renewed.  

And if you aren't selected for the random retest, Triple A offers a self-evaluation tool at seniordriving.AAA.com.

Cowan also suggested a few steps for senior drivers to take.

“Always wear your seatbelt. If you’re having some difficulties driving, try to avoid problem areas like congestion or nighttime or driving in poor weather conditions. Always talk to your doctor before driving on any medication, whether it’s prescribed or over the counter."

According to the Triple A, over the counter medications can increase the risk of a crash by 41%.