After fatal crash, questions arise about elderly driver

After Fatal Crash, Questions Arise About Elderly Driver

After the day was done — and a crash had killed an expectant mother and left her baby in critical condition — the questions began.

Why did 88-year-old Allen Massie drive into Jodie Guthrie, 30, as she leaned against a wall Wednesday outside a Rite Aid pharmacy on the North Side? Did he have Alzheimer’s disease, as one family member told reporters, and if so, why was he driving?

Experts say such questions are common after crashes involving older drivers and so is the answer: Many states have little legal authority to prevent older drivers from getting behind the wheel, even when they have shown signs of dangerous behavior.

“When it comes to re-licensing drivers, states do not look at whether people can effectively drive,” said Susan Cohen, founder of Americans for Older Driver Safety, a Kansas-based advocacy group. “That is what needs to happen throughout the United States, and it’s not.”

Police haven’t decided whether Mr. Massie will be charged. Accident reconstruction investigators believe he might have hit the accelerator instead of the brake while pulling into a Rite Aid parking space at Brighton Road and Pennsylvania Avenue, sending his Dodge Caravan speeding into the wall.

That’s where police say he hit Ms. Guthrie, who was 8½ months pregnant. Crushed against the wall for more than 30 seconds, she was rushed to Allegheny General Hospital, where she died.

Doctors were able to save her baby, a boy she planned to name Trace. He is in critical condition at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, the boy’s uncle said Friday.

Friends and family have started a GoFundMe account for Ms. Guthrie’s fiance, George Weatherwalk, and their son. Donations are being collected at

The couple met in Pittsburgh, said Thom Cullen, Mr. Weatherwalk’s brother. He is a painter; she had volunteered at a day care center until recently.

Although she had met her fiance’s family only once, Ms. Guthrie made a good impression.

“She definitely was a warm person,” Mr. Cullen said. “It was comfort. She had a comforting feeling about her.”

Now he’s worried for his brother. Mr. Weatherwalk doesn’t have medical insurance, his brother said, and he’s facing the prospect of raising his child alone.

“George has experienced every emotion in the gamut of emotions over the course of the [past] 48 hours … everything from anger and not understanding and sadness,” Mr. Cullen said. “He tries to think of the good things that they’ve done.”

Police said Mr. Massie has cooperated fully with the investigation. Officers took him to police headquarters for questioning after the accident, releasing him Wednesday night. His 61-year-old wife accompanied him.

Police might ask a doctor to determine whether Mr. Massie should be allowed to keep his driver’s license, Pittsburgh Major Crimes Lt. Daniel Herrmann said.

It’s unclear whether Mr. Massie, who had no previous driving violations on record in Pennsylvania, might face criminal charges, but experts say there’s little question that accidents involving elderly drivers are a problem. Pennsylvania has nearly 1.5 million drivers age 65 or older, making up 17

percent of the state’s driving population, according to the state Department of Transportation.

PennDOT does not conduct comprehensive testing of older drivers but each month randomly selects 1,900 drivers older than 45 who are required to undergo vision testing and a physical exam prior to their license renewal. If results warrant, those selected may be required to complete a driving and knowledge test.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that require doctors to notify PennDOT if patients develop a condition that would impair their driving ability, Ms. Cohen said.

Short of that, trying to convince an older relative that it’s time to give up the car keys can be difficult. Ms. Cohen suggests taking a gentle tack: ride as a passenger and note mistakes before sitting down to talk.

She also has developed educational materials for older drivers that she hopes to distribute in partnership with the Jewish Association on Aging in Squirrel Hill.

“We have extended longevity to such a great deal that we are now outliving our safe driving years,” Ms. Cohen said. “People don’t realize they need to plan to retire from driving. People assume they can drive until they die.”


Mom wants more eyes on older drivers after her son was killed

Mom Wants More Eyes On Older Drivers After Her Son Was Killed

February 26, 2014 – Cheryl Conner

Click to watch video

A mom could have marked this day by visiting the grave.  Instead, she is bringing life to how her son died.


It’s been three years since Nathan Krasnopoler was hit when an 83-year-old woman cut him off.  She was behind the wheel; he was on a bike near Johns Hopkins University. 


Nathan was trapped under her car, which caused him to fall into a coma and die of a severe brain injury six months later.  



His mom is talking to lawmakers in Annapolis about a bill to allow all medical practitioners, not just doctors, to make recommendations about a patient to the MVA.  


“I really do believe that she probably didn’t get any of the assessment or assistance that she could have used,” said Susan Cohen, Founder, Americans for Older Driver Safety.  


Cohen is helping others understand the risk factors for aging drivers through Americans for Older Driver Safety. 


Hearings on the senate and house bills will happen Friday and Tuesday.  



Families Struggle to Get States to Take Keys from Elderly Drivers

Families Struggle To Get States To Take Keys From Elderly Drivers

February 20, 2014

DALLAS — Before he died last year, James Pickles, then 91, was cognitively impaired and could not hear well, according to his doctors at the Dallas VA.

But his daughters couldn’t convince the state to revoke his driver’s license.

Their experience may not be an isolated incident.

Texas had more than 434,000 drivers over the age of 80 on the road in fiscal year 2012, according to state figures. By contrast, there were 76,000 16-year-old license holders in that same period.

The state does not readily know how many drivers over 80 failed drivers tests last year. The oldest license driver in Texas is 107, according to the state. DPS will not reveal the driver’s sex or identity.

“Dementia is very prevalent,” Sue Cohen said of elderly drivers.

Three years ago, her son was killed by an 83-year-old woman while bicycling to class at John Hopkins University in Baltimore. He was hit and trapped under the car. The driver, confused, stopped the vehicle and left it running. He suffered burns and oxygen deprivation.

Cohen and her husband started Americans for Older Driver Safety (AFODS) in an effort to have licensing requirements stiffened for older drivers. She says more people will have to be killed before changes are made.

“I’m afraid that’s always been the problem in this country, which has always been a car culture,” she said.

James Pickles’ three daughters say they miss their father deeply, but they don’t miss the battles they had with him and the state to keep him off the road.

Three years before his death, he had the first of three incidents where he got in his car, drove to another city, and did not know where he was. On each occasion, police or friendly truck stop attendants watched over Mr. Pickles until one of the daughters could come and retrieve him.

“He would get out on the freeway, and I’m sure these were areas he was initially familiar with, but he would keep going and not stop,” said daughter Joyce King. “He drove to Houston.”

After that incident in 2010, Pickles’ license expired and he insisted one of his daughter’s take him to renew it. He was then 89.

Pat Mitchell, one of the daughters, took him to the DPS assuming the license could not be renewed.

Mr. Pickles walked with stumbling gait and was very hard of hearing. “‘He’s 89! He’s 89!'” Mrs. Mitchell said she told the drivers license representatives.

The license was renewed.

After age 79, Texas law requires that drivers renew their licenses in person and take an eye test. At 85, drivers have to renew every two years. They do not have to take written or driving tests.

Texas DPS regulations say drivers’ license office representatives “are trained to evaluate an applicant’s physical appearance and conduct a basic medical evaluation on every individual who applies for a drivers’ license.”

After he was renewed, the Pickles daughters parked their father’s car at one of their homes, where they thought he could not get it. He got the vehicle and drove it to Oklahoma. He, again, had to be retrieved.

Then the daughters tried to get the license revoked. They had their father take a physical exam at the VA. It determined he suffered from mild cognitive impairment, and had hearing loss. They submitted those findings to the DPS, along with a form questioning his ability to drive.

They say DPS told them that was not enough to revoke the license.

“It was surprising to us that they would give him another license, given all the information we had for them,” Pat Mitchell said.

These incidents are not surprising to Jerry Wall of Aledo. Wall has a prosthetic leg, from a near fatal head-on collision with 82-year-old Vernell Ingram in 2010.

“I’ve got a scar almost all the way from my knee up to my pelvis,” said Wall, who spent 25 days in a hospital.

He was on a motorcycle. Ms. Ingram was headed the wrong way down an Interstate-20 exit ramp.

Wall was awarded more than $5 million in a jury trial against Ingram. She was not criminally charged, but was required to take a driver’s test. She failed the test four times, and examiners notes say she signaled incorrectly, made bad turns, and hit a pole while being tested.

On her fifth try, she was awarded a license.

Illinois is the only state where older drivers — ages 81 and over — have to be tested more frequently than younger drivers. For nationwide changes to happen, each state would have to revise its own laws.

The biggest opponent, reformers say, is the AARP, which supports highway safety but opposes any stiffer regulations based on age.

“We’re not going to pick on folks when they turn a magical age of 75, or 80, or 90,” said Rafael Ayuso of AARP’s state office in Austin.

“The caregiver is the one that has the hard time,” Sharon Pickles said, remembering what she and her sisters went through with their father.

It’s easy to say children should simply take their elderly parents’ keys, but hard to accomplish, said Joyce King.

“He would say things like, ‘I’ve been driving longer than you’ve been living,’” she said.

Do you know someone who is not fit to drive because of a medical condition? Click here for information on the Texas DPS medical revocation process.



Study finds older drivers getting into more crashes

Study Finds Older Drivers Getting Into More Crashes

February 21, 2014

Old Drivers

LEAWOOD, Kan. – A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety finds older drivers are less likely to be involved in serious crashes and less likely to be hurt if they do crash.

While researchers claim that aging baby boomers are less of a threat on the roads because they’re healthier and driver safer cars, Susan Cohen with the Leawood-based Americans for Older Driver Safety said there is a certain amount of “spin” on the study.

The study found from 1997 to 2012, fatal crash rates per licensed driver fell 42 percent for older drivers and 30 percent for middle-aged ones, the study found. Looking at vehicle miles traveled, fatal crash rates fell 39 percent for older drivers and 26 percent for middle-age ones from 1995 to 2008.The greatest rate of decline was among drivers age 80 and over, nearly twice that of middle-age drivers and drivers ages 70 to 74.

“I do believe that all age-groups are benefiting from things are happening. I think that even in the report they issued, the oldest drivers are vulernable to crashes and injuries,” said Cohen.Cohen said there still needs to be a lot more education and awareness for older adults to address the changes that come with age.


Wheels of change: Baltimore's bike crusade

Wheels of change: Baltimore’s bike crusade

By: Andrew Zaleski – January 22, 2014

Bike Crusade

For 23 years, Penny Troutner has owned Light Street Cycles in Federal Hill. And she had seen bicycles on Baltimore’s streets, for recreation and transportation, even before she opened her bike shop. But Troutner holds up 2011 as the year she noticed drivers giving cyclists in the city more room on the road.

It’s a year Baltimore’s cycling community easily, but regrettably, recalls. In August 2011, 20-year-old Nathan Krasnopoler, theJohns Hopkins University student who suffered brain injuries after colliding with a car that had turned into his lane, died nearly seven months after losing consciousness permanently in February.

“After that I noticed I would come to an intersection and cars would stop, and wait for me or wave me by,” said Troutner.

But infrastructure improvements have also contributed to safer streets for cyclists. Since 2006, 140 miles of cycling lanes on city streets have been installed, a measure that garnered Baltimore recognition from the national League of American Bicyclists as a bicycle-friendly community.

And according to some inside the city’s Department of Transportation, the increase in overall bike-lane mileage is just the tip of the iceberg. This spring, the city is looking to roll out a number of far-reaching cycling measures. Among them: Charm City Bikeshare, a bike-sharing program with 25 stations and 250 bikes in Southeast, South and Downtown Baltimore to start, and run by the same company that operates Washington, D.C.’s, Capital Bikeshare and New York City’s CitiBike.

“We’re going to see a visible difference in the next two to three years of bike infrastructure in the city,” said Billy Hwang, 40, the deputy director for administration at the city’s Department of Transportation.

Hwang said this year marks the first time Baltimore is “dedicating federal and local funds to bicycling,” a total of about $3.1 million to put toward bike infrastructure, including another 500 bike racks that will be placed citywide over the next year.

For several years, city government has hinted at implementing a more comprehensive cycling policy. As Baltimore plays catch-up to other metropolises that have bet big on bicycling, a coalition of boosters and everyday riders has also cropped up, pushing one message: Build up Baltimore’s bike infrastructure, and the cyclists will come. Now the convergence of several forces has made 2014, it seems, the year biking in Baltimore will take a great leap forward.

Nowhere has that call for better infrastructure been stronger over the past year than inside Bikemore, a cycling advocacy group founded in 2012. About 150 members contribute monthly dues to the nonprofit and work to promote biking awareness and safety by petitioning the city’s DOT and holding events, including regular bike commuter workshops with state advocacy group Bike Maryland.

Cofounder and executive director Chris Merriam can deliver the reason for Bikemore’s existence in a sentence: “Civilized urban cycling is a real transportation alternative for a lot of people in today’s cities.” You need not be aTour de France champion to ditch your car and commute by bike all over town, as Merriam, 31, has been doing for six years.

“I got my bike out of the basement and just started,” he said. “At first I was scared as hell because I hadn’t been taught how to drive in the street.”

But Merriam, who has a master’s degree in urban planning from Morgan State University, thinks the problem goes a bit deeper than getting used to the roads, especially when the roads are how cyclists have to get around. He insists that “we’ve engineered biking and walking out of existence” in the U.S. In Baltimore, it’s a difficulty exacerbated by the city’s disconnected bike infrastructure.

Accommodations for cyclists do exist — a north-to-south bike lane on St. Paul Street, bike lanes in and around the Inner Harbor and Southeast Baltimore — but a lack of connecting east-to-west lanes, for instance, makes the overall system disjointed. This makes commuter cycling tricky for bikers who live in northern neighborhoods, as Merriam does, who would take advantage of protected bike routes to travel throughout the city.

A Catch-22 also exists here, as it does in many other cities around the country now working on expanding cycling networks.

“The cyclists will come when the infrastructure’s there,” said Tim Barnett, 31, cofounder of the Baltimore Bike Party. “But the public officials want to see the cyclists before they start investing in the infrastructure.”

The Baltimore Bike Party certainly makes a convincing case. Begun in April 2012, it’s a meeting of all stripes of bikers the last Friday of every month. At its peak in the fall, Barnett said, around 1,500 cyclists can be spotted riding designated routes around the city.

While the bike party isn’t directly advocating for better cycling infrastructure the way Bikemore is, it has raised the profile of cyclists in Baltimore. Merriam calls the

monthly rides the “face of biking in this city.” Last summer, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake even joined in for two bike party rides.

Of course, Bikemore believes that cyclists have arrived, which prompted the group to send a letter in early 2013 to Baltimore’s Department of Transportation outlining their requests for 2014. Among them were traffic-separated bike lanes on Maryland Avenue and Cathedral Street; completion of the Jones Falls Trail; more bike racks; and the launch of Baltimore’s bikeshare system.

In October, Bikemore got its answer: Yes.

“It was a combination of good leadership at DOT and good advocacy on our part,” said Merriam, who counts Hwang as an ally of the cycling community. “We made clear what we wanted — we have a long list of projects that we want to see completed. A lot of that was stuff that was proposed by Nate Evans.”

Indeed many of Bikemore’s demands were already suggested by Evans, who was hired as Baltimore’s first bike and pedestrian planner in 2008 and stepped down from the job in November. And much of what former bike czar Evans proposed was already included in the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, drafted two years before Evans even arrived at the Department of Transportation.

“The letter from Bikemore just reiterated a lot of things I was working on, but showed there was another group out there that was going to hold the city accountability for what was being done,” said Evans, 41, who now works as an engineering consultant to the State Highway Administration on its bicycle retrofit program.

When Evans began his tenure, there were 20 miles of bike lanes and two bike shops in the city. Now there are 181 miles of lanes and six bike shops. Baltimore’s Department of Transportation set up almost 500 bike racks during that same period, he says. In fall 2008, Evans conducted Baltimore’s first informal bike census. In September 2013, just over 3,000 cyclists were counted at four citywide locations, a number that seems paltry in a city of 620,000, but represents a 65 percent increase in commuter cycling compared with 2010, according to Caitlin Doolin, the city’s new bike and pedestrian coordinator hired in October.

A 27-year-old former high school triathlete, Doolin is a natural fit for the job. Like Evans, she has a background in engineering and planning. Like Bikemore’s Merriam, she gets around the city primarily by bike. Like Hwang, she’s pushing the Baltimore Department of Transportation to focus less on designing streets for cars, and more on tidily wrapping the traffic infrastructure in with the city’s other transit options, including Charm City Bikeshare.

Both Hwang and Doolin are confident bikesharing will launch this year as expected. The city has the money, Hwang said, to buy the stations and the bikes. Now the city is working with Alta, the company that manages the station software and makes money off bikeshare memberships, to secure sponsorships from local businesses to ensure long-term viability. (There’s a reason New York City’s bikes bear CitiBank’s branding.)

Other improvements, including ones in Bikemore’s 2013 letter, will take several more years to implement, said Doolin. A Downtown Bicycle Network with $1.2 million in funding from Maryland’s Transportation Alternatives program is in the works to connect the city’s northern neighborhoods to existing bike lanes scattered around the Inner Harbor, Fells Point and Mount Vernon — complete with a three-mile, two-lane cycletrack running the length of Maryland Avenue and Cathedral Street and east-to-west connecting lanes on Preston, Biddle, Monument and Madison streets.

“Baltimore’s tricky because there are so few broad streets. Most bike lanes in Baltimore are too close both to traffic and to parked cars for my comfort,” said Jared Nipper, a 33-year-old Remington resident who rides in the Baltimore Bike Party.

A 2014 update to the Baltimore Bicycle Master Plan, which Doolin said is now being vetted by the city’s planning department and Bikemore, includes this ambitious number: 8 percent. That’s the percentage of bike commuters Baltimore’s DOT wants to see on its streets by 2028, said Doolin.

In Portland, that stereotypical hipster haven and bearded bicyclist paradise, 6.1 percent of residents commute by bike now, according to latest numbers from the League of American Bicyclists. In Baltimore, just 0.8 percent of people commute by bike, Hwang said.

“This [bicycle master plan] is the ideal vision,” Doolin said. “We want the stars.”

It’s one thing, however, to install additional bike lanes. It’s another entirely to remake Baltimore when it comes to bike infrastructure.

“I definitely left a lot of work undone,” said Evans, who saw his role as bike and pedestrian planner for Baltimore as something of an ideal job. “I could also see that what I was doing was I was going to reach the end of what was going to be the low-hanging fruit. Anything I was going to try to promote after that was really going to be a harder push.”

Cycling advocates, despite what they’ve managed to achieve thus far working with Baltimore city government, worry that the major efforts they have been pushing for that are now on the cusp of being realized might fizzle if they don’t happen soon.

“It certainly helps when a lane goes in. It reminds people they can do it. It helps when there’s bike racks. It makes cyclists feel welcome,” said Troutner. “But our city is still very, very, very far behind most other cities.”

Biking has had the support of at least one City Council member in the past. District 14 Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke introduced a set of biking bills in 2009 that were either enacted into law or passed as resolutions, including
a cyclists’ Bill of Rights and a “Complete Streets” policy to ensure that road resurfacing is done with cyclists in mind.

But a bike parking law that calls for a $75 ticket to any driver found parking in bike lanes has suffered in the past from sporadic enforcement, said Evans. In early February, Hwang leaves his post at the city’s Department of Transportation, which he has held for a year, for a position at the Maryland Department of Transportation.

And then there’s Charm City Bikeshare, the program that would be the recognizable imprimatur for yet another American city trying to position itself as bicycle-friendly.

Successful bikeshare systems, Evans said, stick around “because a mayor wants it.” For evidence, see former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who saw that the city install more than 350 miles of cycling lanes in preparation for the launch of CitiBike in 2013.

Rawlings-Blake has publicly lent her voice to supporting biking in the city. Speaking at a transit event in Federal Hill last April, she said the city is “committed to installing bike lanes” and that “the cycling culture of Baltimore is now booming,” just before making a plug for the hopeful spring 2014 launch of bikesharing.

“As my administration looks to grow the city of Baltimore by 10,000 families, we plan to invest more in public transit options — including adding more resources to improve cycling infrastructure to support the city’s upcoming Bikeshare system,” said Rawlings-Blake in a statement released to b.  “We want to create a world-class, innovative transportation system that will provide public transit options to help mitigate traffic and improve the air quality. I am truly excited about Charm City Bikeshare and look forward to the enhancements it will make to the quality of living for those who live and work in Baltimore City.”

Doolin points out that Charm City Bikeshare, as well as the improvements to Baltimore’s bike infrastructure, are just the beginning.

“We’re looking at phase one here,” said Doolin. “We want people to walk out their door and have three to four transportation options to take that are reliable.”

Merriam and Bikemore feel confident that biking as transportation, and not only recreation, will continue to be embraced in Baltimore.

“It’s not for everybody,” he admits. “But I think it’s an idea whose time has come.”


Source: The Baltimore Sun


Working To Put The Brakes On Unsafe Older Drivers

Article By Katherine Bontrager & Photography By Lisa Harrison – December 2013

LL_Page_34_Image_0001Leawood family has turned a personal tragedy into a mission to protect an aging driving population from making serious mistakes.

Every time Susan Cohen hears of an elderly driver losing control and crashing into another car, a building, or, terrifyingly, onlookers at a parade, her frustration—and resolve—grow. She understands all too well the heartbreak older impaired drivers can wreak. Cohen lost her son Nathan Krasnopoler in August of 2011 when an 83-year-old driver made the most tragic of mistakes.

A sophomore at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., Nathan was riding his bike, returning from the farmer’s market via the bike lane, when an elderly driver turned into him, trapping him under her Honda Civic. Confused and disoriented, the driver got out of her car—which remained running— and sat down on a nearby wall. It was up to horrified witnesses to turn off the engine, call for emergency services, and help paramedics free Nathan.

While Nathan’s helmet protected his head, his lungs collapsed, depriving him of oxygen for more than 20 minutes and causing severe brain damage. His face, scalded by the car’s engine, was covered in fourth-degree burns. After 10 surgeries to repair his skin, and five months with no sign of cognition, doctors confirmed his parents’ worst nightmare: He was in a vegetative state and would never recover cognitive functions.

Cohen and her husband, Mitchell Krasnopoler, were left grieving and in shock. To add insult to grievous injury, the police who responded to the accident never turned the driver over to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which has a medical advisory board that reviews drivers’ ability to function behind the wheel.

“Those police felt sorry for her,” Cohen says. “She was the age of their grandparents. And they didn’t understand the laws well enough to know that she’d violated some laws. They thought our son was at fault. But she’d failed to yield to him in the bike lane. In addition, she broke the law that states cars have to stay at least 3 feet away from a cyclist at all times, and the law that dictates that when you’ve been in an accident, you have to summon medical help if it’s needed. She was never turned in for an evaluation to determine if she was fit to drive. She’d had three glaucoma surgeries, which can restrict your field of vision, but she was free to return to the road.”

It was clear to Cohen and her husband that the accident that ripped their lives apart was entirely preventable. Not only were state driving laws not advanced enough to handle an ever-increasing influx of elderly drivers, but law enforcement was often not properly trained to handle these potentially impaired citizens.

“As we researched the accident and learned more about older drivers in this country, we came to one conclusion and that is, in America, you can drive until you drop dead,” Cohen says. “No one will stop you, unless your children or grandchildren do. But for the most part, no one will stop you. We want to address these problems.”

Cohen and Krasnopoler have done just that—first in Maryland and now in Kansas and Missouri through their organization Americans For Older Driver Safety (AFODS). (Although AFODS does not yet have charitable organization status from the IRS, another local non-profit,, agreed to sponsor AFODS so that charitable gifts could be made to AFODS through the sponsor.) Its mission is to advocate for safer roads through driver education, assessment, retraining and transitioning; and to raise public awareness of the safety risks related to unmonitored changes in driver abilities.

Their mission is not, Cohen emphasizes, to force older Americans to hand over their car keys. “Driving in America is absolutely important. There is not enough alternative mobility. And the economy needs older drivers and Baby Boomers, of which I’m one, to shop until we drop. So it’s not about keeping safe drivers off the road. It’s about keeping us safe. Nobody wants to be in the shoes of the woman who took Nathan’s life. Simply put: It’s not a matter of age, it’s a matter of ability. My own mother, at age 89, is a very good driver. She’s very safe, very cautious. We need to work together as a community to educate older drivers of the aging-related changes that affect driving and how to address those changes to safely continue driving.”

And the number of older drivers on the road is about to skyrocket. Baby Boomers make up the largest generation in American history—with more than 80 million people, representing about one-quarter of the U.S. population.

“I’ve heard it referred to as a ‘senior tsunami,’ because the number of Americans 65 and older is expected to more than double from 40 million today to 88.5 million by 2050,” Cohen says.

This in itself is not a bad thing. However, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of fatal crashes per mile begins to climb at 70, then steeply increases after the age of 80—even while these same age groups drive fewer miles. The organization notes that this is largely due to the fragility of older drivers and age-related declines in vision, physical mobility, reaction time, and cognitive impairments that may affect driving abilities. [Insert graph on United States Annual Drivers]

And sadly, most state licensing offices aren’t equipped to handle this onslaught of aging drivers. In Kansas, drivers age 65 and older receive a four-year license (those younger renew every six years), and in Missouri, 18- to 20-year-olds and those 70 and over renew every three years (compared to six years for those outside those age groups). As Cohen points out, dramatic mental and physical changes can occur to the elderly in such a broad time period. She thinks a two-year span would be far safer, potentially catching dangerous changes before too much time is spent driving.

What other changes does AFODS hope to impart locally? Aside from more frequent license renewal for those over 70, the group wants to push for additional education for families

, older drivers themselves, law enforcement, as well as training for DMV staff so they can better spot drivers who may be impaired.

“No law change in the world is going to make up for counter staff who have no training or procedure to deal with an older driver who is not understanding even the most basic directions about the renewal of their license,” Cohen says.

Cohen also plans to offer classes to seniors to teach the situations that cause the most older driver crashes, such as intersections with no signal for left-hand turns, and increasing their awareness that medications they may be taking could affect their driving skills.

“There are so many little things drivers can do to remain on the road more safely,” she says. “The mirrors in the car may need to be enlarged or changed. Back-up cameras can be installed. And drivers can be trained to determine when someone is in their blind spot. Also, everyone needs to be aware of what resources are available to them in regards to driver rehabilitation and training.”

And most potently, Cohen can offer stories. “Even in some of the less tragic stories, every driver who caused a crash or incident didn’t think anything was wrong with their driving. We need to explain that everyone needs to be aware of the changes that take place as we age, and realize those changes could have a serious impact on our ability to safely sit behind the wheel.”

For those who’ve come to accept that driving may no longer be in their—or anyone’s—best interest, the group hopes to offer mobility counseling.

“Really it’s to help people find other means of transportation,” Cohen says. “You can’t assume an older person can get themselves on a city bus. It might be too rough of a ride, or the stairs are too steep, or the whole experience too confusing. So really people need assistance in trying to find alternatives that work for them to keep them mobile. Before someone can hang up the keys, they need to discover their mobility options and get comfortable with them.”

It is tiresome work, navigating individual state laws, motivating law enforcement and those at the DMV to listen and get on board, and struggling through the ubiquitous red tape that’s inherent with taking on the powers-that-be. But Cohen is ready. As a lawyer who formerly worked for the Attorney General of Maryland, she knows what it takes to get change accomplished. And she most fervently hopes she can make that difference before more lives are needlessly lost.

Source: Leewood Lifestyle

AFODS In The News

AFODS in the News

After Fatal Crash, Questions Arise About Elderly Driver – November 28, 2014

Mother Wants More Eyes On Older Drivers After Her Son Was Killed – February 26, 2014 

Families Struggle To Get States To Take Keys From Elderly Drivers – February 20, 2014 

Study Finds Older Drivers Getting Into More Crashes – February 21, 2014 

Wheels of Change: Baltimore’s Bike Crusade
Baltimore Sun – January 22, 2014 

Working To Put The Brakes On Unsafe Older Drivers
Leawood Lifestyle – December 2013 

Columbia Missourian – March 20, 2013

Drivers, Old and Young
Frederick News – February 24, 2013

Frequent License Renewals Proposed for Older Drivers
Cumberland Times-News – February 23, 2013

Frequent License Renewals Proposed for Older Drivers
Baltimore Post-Examiner – February 20, 2013


EDITORIAL: Dangers of Older Drivers
The Baltimore Sun – February 19, 2013

Parents Of Student Killed By Elderly Driver Fight For Safer Roads
WJZ Channel 13 CBS – February 19, 2013

Lawmakers Reviewing Md.’s Licensing Laws
Fox 45 – February 19, 2013
WJZ Channel 13 – May 3, 2012 (View Video)
Family, Friends Remember Krasnopoler

North Baltimore Patch – February 27, 2012
WBAL Radio – February 26, 2012

WTOP Radio – February 2, 2012
Maryland Morning – February 1, 2012 
Southern Maryland – February 1, 2012