Mother Of Fatal Crash Victim Teaches Elderly Driver Safety

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s been four years since a computer science student at Johns Hopkins was run over as he road his bicycle near campus.

As Mike Schuh reports, his death has prompted his mother to educate elderly drivers about when to hang up their keys.

Four years ago Sunday, Hopkins student Nathan Krasnopoler died after being struck on his bicycle by an 83-year-old driver.

On Sunday, his mom flew in from Kansas to place flowers on the white bike memorializing his passing.
It’s something she says no parent should have to endure.

“We do not have effective ways yet of determining whether or not a driver is able to drive safely,” Susan Cohen said.

But she’s working to change that.

“Susan has dedicated her time since Nathan’s passing to the education of older drivers and making sure that older drivers are aware of when they may no longer be suitable to operate a vehicle on the road,” Liz Cornish, executive director of Bikemore, said.

It’s taken her years to research and write a guide for experienced drivers.

Her target audience is who she spoke to Monday, a group of 40 men, who mostly are retired.

She says a child or friend often can see that an elderly person’s driving skills have deteriorated — and it’s crucial that they get checked out.

“That person needs to say, ‘Let’s get you checked out. Let’s figure where you can be checked out to see if you’re still safe to drive,’” said Cohen. “Because the last thing I would want any person to go through is what my family has gone through and what the woman who killed my son has gone through.”

She says a doctor should be able to evaluate an older driver or recommend someone who can.

She says Maryland is one of the worst states for determining if older drivers are still capable of driving safely.

Mother of Md. crash victim now teaching elderly drivers

BALTIMORE (AP) — The mother of a college student who died after he was struck by an elderly driver while on his bicycle is now teaching senior citizens about factors that may impair their driving ability. Nathan Krosnopoler died four years ago. He had been struck six months earlier near the Johns Hopkins University campus in Baltimore, where he was a student. The driver received traffic tickets but was not criminally charged. Krosnopoler’s mother, Susan Cohen, went on to found Americans for Older Driver Safety. On Sunday, she honored her son at the site of the crash. She will host a seminar on Monday at the Myerburg Senior Center in Baltimore. Cohen says she w


A Johns Hopkins Sophmore Killed And Older Driver Safety

Credit auntjojo // Flickr Creative Commons

You may remember the headlines of four years ago:  the brilliant Johns Hopkins sophomore, a computer major who cared about health and sustainable agriculture, bicycling in a bike lane on West University Parkway when a car turned right in front him.  The bicyclist, Nathan Krasnopoler, was pinned under the car.  But the 83-year-old motorist, apparently disoriented, did not turn the car off, or call for help.  She sat on a nearby wall, until a passerby intervened.

The collision threw Nathan Krasnopoler, age 20, into a coma.  He died five months later, four years ago today.  To bring some good from the tragedy, his mother, Susan Cohen, an attorney, has immersed herself in the work of raising the safety of other older drivers.  This morning, on the anniversary of her son’s death, she’ll be teaching a class in older-driver safety.


Mother Of Md. Crash Victim Now Teaching Elderly Drivers

BALTIMORE (AP) — The mother of a college student who died after he was struck by an elderly driver while on his bicycle is now teaching senior citizens about factors that may impair their driving ability.
Nathan Krosnopoler died four years ago. He had been struck six months earlier near the Johns Hopkins University campus in Baltimore, where he was a student. The driver received traffic tickets but was not criminally charged.
Krosnopoler’s mother, Susan Cohen, went on to found Americans for Older Driver Safety. On Sunday, she honored her son at the site of the crash. She will host a seminar on Monday at the Myerburg Senior Center in Baltimore.
Cohen says she would like to see legislation requiring elderly drivers in Maryland to renew their licenses in person every eight years.


Mother of bicyclist killed in car accident helps educate elderly drivers

Susan Cohen threaded sunflowers and hydrangeas through the frame of a white “ghost bike” on the sidewalk at West University Parkway, a memorial to her son Nathan Krasnopoler. The Johns Hopkins University student was 20 when he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle near campus.

Cohen has made many visits to the accident scene since the collision more than four years ago, when an 83-year-old woman turned right from West University into her apartment building driveway, hitting Krasnopoler and pinning him under her car. Krasnopoler, who never regained consciousness and was in a coma, suffered severe brain damage and died six months later on Aug. 10, 2011.

Susan Cohen, mother of Nathan Krasnopoler, who died four years ago after being struck and killed while riding a bike, decorates a white bicycle with flowers for the anniversary of his death. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)
On Sunday, a visit to mark the fourth anniversary of her middle child’s death carried yet another purpose for Cohen.

The attorney and former Ellicott City resident has embarked on a mission to help aging motorists drive more safely and recognize their limits. Cohen, who with her husband founded Americans for Older Driver Safety in 2012, has begun offering seminars using curriculum she developed to teach aging drivers about physical and cognitive impairments that could diminish their abilities.

“I’ve become a national expert, and it wasn’t by choice,” Cohen said. “Older drivers don’t know when they’re safe to drive. They can get the car turned on and on the roadway, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe.”

It’s an issue that gets too little attention, Cohen said, at a time when aging baby boomers will help swell the over-70 population over the next two decades.

During seminars at senior centers, libraries, churches and synagogues, she urges drivers to begin “downsizing” in their 70s in preparation for eventually stopping driving altogether. Such transitions can include planning routes and schedules to avoid driving at night, on highways or unfamiliar places, or reducing the number of days on the road. Cohen has tracked accidents around the country involving elderly drivers and has found they most often result after left turns or driving on the wrong side of the road.

“There are lots of ways … to reduce driving and reduce risk and still stay mobile,” she said.

She encourages older drivers to ask family members to ride along to observe them or seek out expert opinions from specialists such as occupational therapists or neurologists. Age may not matter, some older drivers may have no physical or cognitive impairments that would make their driving unsafe.

“It’s not about age; it’s about ability,” she said, though “driving retirement is something we’re all headed for.”

Besides speaking with senior citizens, who she said have been receptive to her talks, she has advocated for state laws that would require competency testing or increase in-person evaluations as part of license renewals. She said Maryland’s extension of in-person renewals from five to eight years put the state “at the bottom of the heap.”

Cohen’s work complements that of Bikemore, said Liz Cornish, executive director of the Baltimore bicycling advocacy organization. The group is advocating for planning and infrastructure that benefits and improves safety for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers, while promoting options that reduce automobile dependency, she said.

“We all want to live in a city where a college student can bike home from the farmer’s market, and do so with the expectation of arriving at the destination safely,” Cornish said.

Cohen, who now lives in a Kansas City suburb, has been able to develop her seminars in that area with the help of grants. Another grant from the David and Barbara B. Hirschhorn Foundation will allow her to expand to Maryland. She will offer her first seminar in the state on Monday for about 60 men at the Edward A. Myerberg Center, a senior center, on topics such as good and dangerous driving habits and the transition to driving retirement.

On Sunday morning before visiting her son’s “ghost bike,” one of three such memorials in the city, Cohen stopped at the supermarket to buy seasonal flowers she knew her son would have liked. Nathan, who grew up in Ellicott City and was a computer science major, had been on his way home from the Waverly Farmer’s market the Saturday morning of the accident. The sophomore was riding in the bike lane when he was hit.

“My son was an interesting kid, very brilliant, but he was all about doing things the best way,” hence the trip to the market where he regularly bought local, seasonal produce, Cohen said, adding he liked to cook from scratch.

“He was a brilliant young man with a bright future,” Cohen said. “There’s very little I can do for my son, except to remember him, and that’s what I’m doing.”


Full Episode: Maryland's News This Week, Sunday, August 9, 2015

Credit:WBAL Photo

On this edition of Maryland’s News This Week, WBAL’s Robert Lang talks to Congressman Elijah Cummings about efforts to fight crime in Baltimore; efforts to find an alternative for the Red Line; the Iran nuclear agreement; the Benghazi investigation, and a possible Senate run.

Susan Cohen joined the program to talk about elderly driver safety.

Plus, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett joined the program to talk about the Maryland Association of Counties Summer Conference in Ocean City.

Listen to Maryland’s News This Week, Sundays at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., on WBAL NewsRadio 1090.


After losing her son to an elderly driver, Leawood woman pushes for change

Nathan Krasnopoler was just trying to get home from the farmers market with a backpack of fresh vegetables.

He never made it. In February 2011 an 83-year-old driver turned directly in front of him on a Baltimore street, knocking him from his bike and pinning him underneath her car. Five months later, the 20-year-old Johns Hopkins University sophomore died.

On Wednesday his mother — Susan Cohen of Leawood, an attorney turned consumer advocate — will speak from painful experience about the importance of older driver safety. She is keynote speaker of the Get Up and Go Older Adult Driving Expo at the University of Kansas Edwards Campus.

Cohen, 59, who teaches classes for aging drivers, will talk about medical conditions that can degrade driving skills, highlight products that increase safety and discuss low-cost transportation options in Johnson County for those who have stopped driving.

“We’ve extended human life so far that we cannot assume, as we could a few decades ago, that you can just drive until you die,” Cohen says. “And you will never really know when you are no longer safe on the road. You’re not going to get a phone call — ‘Oh, today’s the day I’m no longer safe to drive?’ It’s not like that.”

If only it was.

As the silver Honda Civic’s hot engine scalded Nathan’s face, its disoriented driver exited her car and sat on a landscaping wall outside her apartment complex. She did not yell for help. She did not dial 911. She didn’t even turn off her car.

Later, a horrified passerby had to shut off the car’s engine, call for assistance and help paramedics free Nathan.

“We just don’t know how long he was under that vehicle with two collapsed lungs while she just sat there,” says Cohen, who was living with her family in Baltimore at the time. Nathan sustained severe brain damage and disfiguring burns to his face and arms.

Cohen’s face drops at the memory.

“I took one look at him and it was just … unbelievable,” she says. “I couldn’t believe a person could be alive looking like that. His head was enormous, he was all swollen and red. Half his face was burned off by the engine.”

Such a loss. “Nathan was really brilliant,” she says of her son, who got a scholarship to Johns Hopkins. “He had a great computer science career ahead of him.”

Cohen and her husband, Mitchell Krasnopoler, have two other children, Elliot, 27, and Emma, 18.

“Mom keeps talking about how he was intellectual and into computer science, but he also changed the way we cook,” says Emma. “He insisted we use fresh ingredients and make things the best way and not just the easiest way. He made this pie crust out of butter and not Crisco. And we still make it because it’s better.”

Nathan spent five months in a coma and had 10 surgeries to repair his skin. His parents finally faced the grim reality: Their son was in a vegetative state and would not recover. They decided to remove his feeding tube. He was moved to a hospice and died that August. The state of Maryland did not take away the woman’s license, even though she broke several laws. Authorities didn’t report her to the Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles, which has a medical advisory board to review a person’s fitness to drive. The couple had to sue the woman to get her to give up her driver’s license.

Today, Cohen and her husband have turned personal tragedy into a public mission: to do all they can to keep what happened to Nathan from happening to anyone else.

In 2012 they founded Americans for Older Driver Safety to encourage older drivers to get safety training, to drive less and to prepare for the day when they will stop driving.

For seniors and their families, it’s a thorny subject. A survey from the National Safety Council and found that adult children ranked talking to elderly parents about their driving more difficult than talking to them about selling their house or even funeral wishes.

Still, having the conversation is important, Cohen says. Per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase starting at age 75 and rise notably after age 80, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“What we really need to do is for all the states to be working on public awareness campaigns on the issue of aging and driving,” Cohen says. “And not just drivers. It’s doctors and law enforcement officers and the state licensing administration. It will take many, many years to get state laws in place nationwide that review drivers to see whether they are still capable of driving. We don’t have that in place now.”

Missouri and Kansas do have programs to evaluate older drivers for safety when they come in for license renewal. Still, Cohen says, too many dangerous drivers remain on the roads. Both states allow older drivers to have restricted licenses that permit them to drive a mile or two to a grocery store, but not longer distances.

“Older drivers want to hang on,” says Mitchell Krasnopoler. “The problem is, when your cognitive ability decreases, so does your ability to assess yourself. So you’re in denial that you can’t drive. You rationalize it and say, ‘I only drive certain distances.'”

Cohen knows that many statistics show that older drivers are actually safer than younger ones. But that’s largely because they drive less, she says.

That’s changing.

In the early ’70s only 50 percent of Americans over 65 had a driver’s license, according to AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety. By 2010 that number jumped to 85 percent. And today, as the first members of the baby boom generation get ready to turn 70, the number of elderly drivers is set to skyrocket again. Beginning Jan. 1, according to one estimate, an average of 10,800 U.S. citizens will turn 70 every day for almost 15 years. By the time this “silver tsunami” crests in 2030, an estimated 78 million baby boomers will be 70 and older.

“Per mile driven (older drivers) actually are more dangerous than teenagers at a certain age,” says Krasnopoler.

Following Nathan’s death, Cohen turned herself into a national expert on elderly motorists. She wrote her own curriculum on older driver safety and used her own money to help print booklets full of tips.

“There are many states in the U.S. that don’t have any materials whatsoever relating to older driver safety,” she says. “You can go into any library and there’s nothing for you to take out. I would like for (the booklets) to be on display in doctor’s offices.”

Money from a couple of grants helped Cohen teach about 150 drivers. Destination Safe Coalition, a part of the Mid-America Regional Council, just renewed her grant for another year in Missouri.

Classes will start in late summer at a yet-to-be determined location. She’s seeking a bigger financial backer to bring her driving tips to an even larger audience.

For seniors who choose to stop driving, there are options; about a dozen transportation services will attend Wednesday’s expo.

Johnson County’s Catch-a-Ride suggests a $3 donation for a one-way trip. Volunteer drivers take riders who are over 60, have a disability or no means of transportation to medical appointments, the grocery store and social service agencies.

JET Express, operated by Jewish Family Services, charges $5 each way but will take riders age 65 and older on both sides of the state line to more locations.

“People feel if they don’t have a car they can’t continue the active and independent lives they had been leading as they age,” says Dawn Staton, director of older adult initiatives for Jewish Family Services. “So they just continue driving. But there are (ways) to get them to the doctor, or visit a friend, or go to the movies.”

Cohen insists her motive is not to get older drivers to hand over their keys.

“We’ve not trying to get safe drivers off the roads,” she says. “We’re just trying to make more people safe.”

Kristin Nichols, an occupational therapist and certified driving rehab specialist at Shawnee Mission Health, said Cohen is doing just that.

“Susan has done an amazing job of trying to tackle a beastly problem and (get ahead of) a national crisis,” Nichols says. “Historically it has been addressed by states individually. Her goal is to try to bring some continuity to the problem, nationally. She certainly has the tenacity to make a difference.”

James Stowe, co-chair of the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety’s subcommittee on elderly mobility and safety, praised Cohen for turning a personal tragedy into a greater good.

“I really think she and her organization have the chance to be as important as groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving,” he says.

She’s done it all for Nathan.

“What can I say?” she says, cradling a picture of her smiling middle child. “He was adorable. Just a very sweet kid.”


How to talk to elderly drivers about driving safely as you age

June 8, 2015 – KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Do you have a loved one you feel should not be driving — but are having difficulty getting them to stop?

A Johnson County woman said she knows from her own painful experience the importance of elder driving safety.

“He was basically beside her car, and he crashed into her car, flew over her hood, landed on her driveway, and she proceeded with the turn into her driveway and she pinned him underneath the front part of her car,” says Susan Cohen, who remembers February 26th, 2011, all too vividly.

They were living in Maryland, and her son, Nathan Krasnopoler, a sophomore at Johns Hopkins was riding his bike home from the farmers market when an 83-year-old woman hit him.

Cohen says this woman did not call 911 or ask for help.

“She got out of the car, left it running and sat down on a wall outside of her building,” Cohen says. “We don`t know how long he was under her car without assistance, but it must have been a while because he ultimately lost all of his brain cells.”

Cohen says luckily a passerby stopped, turned off the woman’s car and called 911.

Nathan was taken to the hospital — where he remained for five months. He suffered two collapsed lungs and was in a vegetative state. Doctors told the family that Nathan would never recover.

“That accident, everything about it, demonstrated how unable this society is to deal with older adult drivers that don`t really have the ability to drive safely,” Cohen adds.

Kristin Nichols, a Certified Driving Rehab Specialist with Shawnee Mission Medical Center, evaluates people with medical conditions that might affect their ability to safely drive.

“It can help to give them the information that maybe they need to accept some of the changes that have occurred,” Nichols says.

She says since we’re living longer, people are driving well beyond when they should.

“The research is suggesting that we are outliving our driving age by 7 to 10 years,” adds Nichols.

Cohen says the research changed her life completely. She stopped practicing law, moved to Kansas and now runs a non-profit program called Americans For Older Driver Safety.

“It was really an eye opening experience to learn how the states don`t really check to make sure that drivers are capable of driving safely, that they have the functionality necessary to drive safely before renew a license,” Cohen says.

Cohen will be speaking at the Older Adult Driving Expo Wednesday, June 3rd, from 8:30 and 12:30 at KU Edwards Campus.

You can learn about driving safely as you age, downsizing your driving and preparing for driving retirement.


Woman turning son's tragic death into crusade for older driver safety

LEAWOOD, KS (KCTV) – June 01, 2015
A Leawood woman is turning her son’s tragic death into a crusade for senior citizen driving safety.

On Wednesday, Susan Cohen will bring her story and her educational program to the KU Edwards campus for The Get Up and Go Older Adult Driving Expo.

“It is so important to have an active and fulfilled life,” said Cohen. “But it is also important to drive less over time and eventually retire from driving.”

In 2011, her 20-year-old son, Nathan Krasnopoler, was run over by an 83-year-old driver when the family lived in Baltimore. Nathan was riding a bicycle home from the nearby farmer’s market.

“He flew through the air and she drove over him on her driveway, so she pinned him between the driveway and the hot part of the car so the wheels never went over him but he was pinned.”

Cohen can’t say for sure if age played a role in the woman’s fatal driving error, but the police report did reveal a physical limitation.

“She had three glaucoma surgeries which meant that she lost peripheral vision, so she wasn’t doing anything in her driving to compensate for that loss,” said Cohen. “I really think that this was a driver that with more education and coaching and perhaps referrals from her physician would have probably been OK to drive, but unfortunately she was not.”

After hitting him, the driver got out and sat on a wall. She didn’t yell for help or call 911. A passerby eventually intervened. Cohen doesn’t know how long her son’s body laid underneath the hot undercarriage, which crushed his lungs and burned his face nor does she know what caused the woman to react to the wreck the way she did.

“We don’t know because police never turned her in for a medical review,” said Cohen when asked about possibilities like dementia.

It was a life-changing moment that prompted Cohen to set aside her career as a lawyer and become an activist and educator with a mission. In 2012, after she moved to Leawood, she and her husband founded Americans for Older Driver Safety.

“I felt compelled to address the problem,” she explained. “I felt that my son would want this problem addressed.”

A 2014 AAA report calls elderly drivers the safest age group on the road. Cohen says that’s because they’re on the road less often overall. But those who aren’t aware of their limitations can pose a risk.

“Everything with aging happens so gradually, you really will not know when you are unsafe to drive,” said Cohen

The class she’s offering at Tuesday’s expo is something she has already taught in Missouri thanks to a grant from the Mid-America Regional Council.

The main focus of Cohen’s classes isn’t driving but planning. She has created a worksheet listing all the usual places someone might want or need to go along with columns for transportation alternatives. She suggests planning to reduce driving gradually.

She also brings examples of products that can make driving safer and more comfortable for seniors. For example, there are large rear-view mirror add-ons that broaden field of vision. Her favorite product is something called Mobileye, which tells drivers if they are driving too closely or drifting into another lane. Cohen has equipped her teenaged daughter’s car with one.

One thing she doesn’t include is driving skills, such as being aware of how declining peripheral vision requires that drivers turn their heads more and not rely on side-view mirrors. The AARP offers those classes. Click here for information.

Cohen recommends that older drivers take those classes as well to supplement the planning course she provides.

AAA offers a useful online screening tool for older drivers to see how well they perform on certain key functions. Click here for more.

Wednesday’s expo runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Regnier Hall at KU’s Edwards Campus. It is free. Cohen’s class will run from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Click here for more.

Alternative senior transportation organizations will be on hand as well. Johnson County Catch-a-Ride provides volunteer drivers on a contagion-only basis. JET Express, which is run by Jewish Family Services, provides volunteers in Missouri and Kansas at a cost of $5 per one-way trip.

Cohen plans to teach classes in Missouri later this year.


Past Conferences

Past Conferences


January 12-16, 2014
Washington DC
Wardman Park Marriott Hotel
Aging in America Conference 
March 11-15, 2014
San Diego, California

April 2-5, 2014

Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore Convention Center

April 27-29, 2014
Nashville, Tenn. at Gaylord Opryland Hotel
A national conference on highway safety priorities.  Includes workshops on nine separate tracks including Vulnerable Populations, Adult Occupant Protection/Vehicle Technology, Disracted Driving and Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement.  New this year: CarFit Technician Training the day before Lifesavers begins.

May 11-15, 2014
Detroit Michigan
Marriott Renaissance Center 
“The 2014 conference will provide an update and evaluation of best practices since the 2004 conference, and also highlight best practices that improve older adult mobility from organizations around the world. The conference planning committee has already secured the participation of David Cole, Chairman Emeritus, Center for Automotive Research, to facilitate a session on May 14th, with auto industry on what each of the auto manufactuers have done to improve mobility and safety for the driving population, specifically older adults. See

the enclosed fact sheet for more information regarding the conference.”

Association For Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED) Annual Conference
August 3-5
Buffalo, New York
November 5-9, 2014
Washington, DC
Washington Convention Center
International Conferences
Paris, France
Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine (AAAM)
October 12-15, 2014
Munich, Germany
AAAM is a scientific  meeting devoted entirely to traffic related injury control 
Local Courses and Meetings Of Interest
Portland, Oregon
March 7-9, 2014
This conference is an opportunity for driver educators, program coordinators, private school owners and state administrators to get new ideas and view different products that may be of use in their program.
Disability, Vision, Aging:  Effect  On Driving
May 16 & 17, 2014
Anne Arundel Community College
15 CEU Hours in Occupational Therapy