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Road Safety Officials Encourage Older Drivers To Assess Their Skills Behind The Wheel

PennDOT and the state Departments of Aging and Insurance are reminding older drivers to evaluate their driving abilities as part of "Older Driver Safety Awareness Week." 

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers age 85 and older are nearly twice as likely to crash compared to drivers between the ages of 16 and 19.

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said families should look for warning signs that someone they love might be losing his or her ability to drive.

“Maybe they’re having challenges with navigating at certain hours of the day, it could be just slower reaction times as they’re driving,” Waters-Trasatt said.

Other warning signs include diminishing eyesight and failing to use proper signals, she said.

“It’s very important that people are honest in their assessment of their driving abilities at whatever age or condition they are,” she said. “And if you think that you might be posing any sort of safety risk to yourself or other drivers, there are options out there for you.”

The Basic Mature Driver Improvement Course, which reviews tenants of good driving, was designed for people 55 or older. There are no written or practical driving tests, and Pennsylvania residents who complete the course are eligible for a 5 percent discount on their auto insurance.

Pennsylvania does not currently require drivers to re-test for their license at any point after passing the initial test first available as a teen. But doctors must report any potential diagnoses that may affect driving ability to PennDOT, which has the ability to either restrict or recall driving privileges.

Waters-Trasatt said there are alternatives for people who do choose to give up their driver’s license.

“If a person with a disability or an older driver … does make the decision to hang up the keys, we do have transportation available in every county in the state,” she said. “This is the Shared Ride and Reduce Fare Transit Program.”

Those programs gives senior citizens age 65 and older an 85 percent discount on fare for shared-ride programs, and persons with disabilities can receive a 50 percent discount on public transportation during non-peak hours, according to the PennDOT website.