CHP summit to focus on senior drivers
Next week is California’s first-ever Senior Safe Mobility Week, proclaimed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to focus on safety and mobility complications faced by senior drivers.
Grass Valley California Highway Patrol Lt. Charles Whitmore announced the designation Monday. He said the CHP administers the Older Californian Traffic Safety Task Force, which is coordinating a one-day summit Oct. 26 in Orange County to explore issues seniors face on the road.
According to the task force, California’s senior population (65 and older), now at 4 million, will grow to 5.2 million in 2020 and to 9 million a decade after that. The number of licensed drivers within this age group will also increase, growing from today’s 2.75 million to 4 million in 2020 and 6 million in 2030.
“Because we face a huge increase in older drivers, casualties may increase dramatically, in part because age produces frailty, and a frail body is at much greater risk of severe injury or death,” said CHP Commissioner Mike Brown in a news release Monday. “We have to work at crash avoidance to cut that toll.”
Grass Valley CHP Officer Earl Cummins said that once every few years he will come across a senior citizen in a driving situation who may need to be re-evaluated by the DMV, based on the way the senior was driving or an accident the senior was involved in.
In one instance years ago, he said, he stopped an elderly man on northbound Highway 49.
“He was weaving,” Cummins said. “I was expecting a drunk driver.”
The man told Cummins he was headed to Auburn, and he was confused about which direction he was headed.
Cummins recommended the man for a re-evaluation by the Department of Motor Vehicles, where it would be determined whether restrictions would be placed on the man’s driver’s license.
But in order to avoid similar situations as much as possible, next week’s summit will bring together state, local and national leaders from government, the aging services community, traffic police, highway engineers, the transit industry and the health care community to examine how communities can increase safety for seniors while keeping them mobile.
Dr. David Manning, regional administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will be the keynote speaker.
One panel will feature top administrators from four California state departments – transportation, motor vehicles, health services and aging.
Separate panels considering safety and mobility issues will present findings from experts in these subject areas.
The summit will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Newport Beach.
“The generation about to begin retiring will more than double the California senior driving population by 2030,” Whitmore said. “That fact alone defines the urgency of task force action.”
He said age by itself is not a reliable indicator of risk, so “blanket indictments of drivers based on age don’t hold up.”
“But we also know that some seniors will become a risk, and they need to cease driving,” Whitmore said. “Loss of mobility should not be a consequence as a result. That’s why mobility options are gaining increased Task Force scrutiny.”
For more information about issues facing senior drivers, including health, safety and information about drivers’ tests and public transportation, go to http://www.dmv.ca.gov/about/senior.
To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4236.
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