Penn. Encourages Older Drivers to Assess Their Skills Behind the Wheel

December 10, 2015

With the number of older Pennsylvanians steadily increasing, the Pennsylvania Departments of Transportation, Aging, and Insurance remind citizens that striking the right balance between safety on roadways and the mobility of older drivers is very important.

“Driving is a privilege; however, losing the independence of mobility can be particularly devastating for a driver with years behind the wheel,” said Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Leslie Richards. “It’s essential for older drivers and their family members to speak openly about what they’ll do when it is time to hang up the keys for safety’s sake.”

“While driving means freedom and independence, it must be balanced with attention to personal and public safety,” commented Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne.

“Understanding that health conditions in later life can pose challenges when it comes to driving, we are committed to ensuring that older Pennsylvanians and their families have access to resources that help them continue to drive safely for a lifetime and to supports that guide their transportation options,” Osborne added.

The three departments are calling attention to these issues as part of recognizing Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, Dec. 7 -11. Officials say the goal is to call attention to physical and cognitive changes that can affect driving abilities, promote commonwealth programs and services that support the importance of safe mobility and transportation for older adults, and offer guidance to keep older Pennsylvanians mobile and active in communities.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has a number of programs that assess drivers’ abilities and offers drivers who wish to voluntarily turn in their licenses for medical reasons a one-time free identification card.

The normal fee of $28.50 is waived the first time the identification card is issued to a person turning in their license for medical reasons. Pennsylvania drivers wishing to use this option can fill out a DL-54A form, an application for initial identification card, and bring it with their license to a driver license center.

Every person ages differently, officials said, but with increasing age come changes in physical, mental and sensory abilities that can challenge a person’s ability to drive safely.

Just as there are ways to determine how good a driver a person is today, there are also ways to determine if the time has come when a person really needs to stop driving, officials said. Many times, rather than concentrating on possible solutions, the focus becomes ‘at what age should an older driver stop driving?’

PennDOT said it continually seeks to balance the safety of roadways with the impact of loss of independence, autonomy and mobility of the older driver by offering resources and programs designed to help strike the balance between safety and mobility.

Under the state’s medical reporting program, the law requires medical professionals to report to PennDOT any person age 15 or older who has been diagnosed with a condition that may impair their ability to drive safely, which could lead to a restricted license or a recall of the driving privilege.

In addition, each month PennDOT randomly selects 1,900 drivers over the age of 45 to undergo physical and vision exams at the time of license renewal, and if the results suggest a need, the individual may be required to complete a driver’s exam.

PennDOT also receives reports from law enforcement, and concerned family members and friends, which trigger a review process and possible further exams.

Officials said additional resources are also available to help older drivers assess driving skills. Several free online tools are available to measure functional driving abilities shown to identify collision risks among older drivers.

Approved driver improvement courses are also available for older drivers who may only need to sharpen their driving skills. Courses are offered statewide and fees vary. Information about a variety of organizations that offer driver assessment tools and safe driver courses is available at www.JustDrivePA.org.

Also available at this site are warning signs, safety tips and guidance for how family members or close friends can initiate the conversation, which is often an emotional topic for all involved.

Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller added that Pennsylvania law requires insurance companies to provide at least a five percent premium discount when policyholders 55 or older successfully complete an approved driver improvement course.

“Having attended several of these courses over the past year, I can personally say they provide great information to make senior drivers, and our roads, safer,” Miller said.

Individuals seeking the discount are required to take an approved driver improvement course every three years to remain eligible and may be disqualified if involved in a chargeable crash, convicted of a moving violation or convicted for driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, which may include prescribed medications.

Source: The Pennsylvania Insurance Department

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