The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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May 9, 2014

Silver tsunami of senior drivers only 16 years down road

SUNBURY — More senior citizens are behind the wheel than ever before, with one in six drivers over the age of 65, according to a report released Thursday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

And those numbers are only going to increase in what AAA calls the “silver tsunami.”

The report found that 84 percent of Americans 65 or older had driver’s licenses in 2010, compared with barely 50 percent in 1970. In addition, 68 percent of drivers aged 85 or older reported driving five or more days per week.

And with baby boomers aging, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts the population of those 70 and older is projected to increase from 29.1 million in 2012 to 52.7 million in 2030, which the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety predicts will mean more senior drivers on the road.

That leads to numerous concerns about safety behind the wheel for older drivers, who statistically are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash beginning at age 75.

With more than 90 percent of seniors reportedly taking at least one prescription medication, AAA said it is working on ways to educate the elderly about the effects of prescriptions on driving, including online tools to determine whether their medications can impair driving ability.

“This level of medication use does raise concerns, yet evidence indicates seniors are fairly cautious,” AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger said in a press release.

PennDOT calls for exams

The state Department of Transportation also has safety measures in place, including randomly selecting 1,900 drivers aged 45 or older at the time of their license renewal for eye and physical exams by a physician of their choice to determine whether they may need to retake their driver’s exam.

“At this time, less than 1 percent of tested drivers are required to take another driver’s exam,” said David Thompson, PennDOT District 3 spokesman.

However, there are no requirements for retesting drivers of a certain age when they are involved in crashes, Thompson said.

“PennDOT may request an evaluation of any driver, regardless of age, who has experienced a series of vehicle crashes,” he said.

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