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Resources outlined for older Pennsylvanians on the road

The event aimed to share information to help seniors extend their years on the road, while also reminding them of other available transportation options.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Department of Aging highlighted older driver safety at a Tuesday event in Dauphin County. 

Nearly a quarter of Pennsylvania's 9.1 million licensed drivers are 65 and older, according to PennDOT. In 2021 there were more than 19,700 crashes involving at least one driver aged 65 or older, which resulted in over 300 total fatalities. 

This represents about 17% of all crashes and about 25% of all fatalities.

The event aimed to share information to help seniors extend their years on the road, while also reminding them of other available transportation options. 

It was held during Older Driver Safety Awareness Week, which is observed from Dec. 5 through 9. 

"If older adult [drivers] need to make adjustments, accessible and available transportation alternatives become key to getting around. Pennsylvania is fortunate that our lottery proceeds help to fund these alternative services," said Secretary of Aging Robert Torres. 

Officials added that Pennsylvania has a network of shared-ride service providers dedicated to keeping older adults mobile, safe, and engaged in their community. 

The transportation programs allow citizens ages 65 or older to ride for free on a local, fixed-route service whenever local public transportation is operating. 

PennDOT recently developed an online tool called Find My Ride that allows older drivers to access free ride services online. The website enables transit agencies to process applications more efficiently, so users can access benefits more quickly.

“Along with the unique challenges already faced by older drivers, winter weather conditions, longer nights, and heavy holiday traffic create challenges for drivers of all ages,” said Lieutenant Adam Reed, director of the communications office with the Pennsylvania State Police.

Older drivers and their families are encouraged to work together to identify potential issues that may affect driving, outline courses of action to assist the older driver, and plan for when it’s time to hang up the keys.

Signs that can indicate it may be time to limit or stop driving altogether include:

  • Feeling uncomfortable, fearful, or nervous when driving;
  • Unexplained dents/scrapes on the car, fences, mailboxes, or garage doors;
  • Frequently getting lost and frequent “close calls” (i.e. almost crashing);
  • Slower response times, particularly to unexpected situations;
  • Difficulty paying attention to signs or staying in the lane of traffic; and
  • Trouble judging gaps at intersections or highway entrance/exit ramps.

The following safe-driving habits, which should be routine at any age, are especially useful to older drivers:

  • Plan ahead: lengthy car trips should be made during daylight hours. Morning may be best because most people aren’t as tired as they are in the afternoon.
  • Don’t drive in rush-hour traffic if you can avoid it. Plan trips after 9:00 AM or before 5:00 PM. Know what roads near home are most congested and avoid them.
  • When driving long distances, especially in winter, call ahead for weather and road condition updates.
  • Look ahead. Good drivers get a jump on trouble by looking far down the road and making adjustments before encountering problems that may involve other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists or animals.
  • Maintain a safe speed. This depends on what the road is like, how well the driver can see, how much traffic there is and how fast traffic is moving.
  • Keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you. The PA Driver’s Manual advises that you should always keep a 4-second gap between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Additional information on older driver safety and mobility resources is available at both PennDOT Driver and Vehicle Services and the Department of Aging websites.


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