SMITH, KOHL RELEASE RESULTS OF GAO REPORT ON IMPROVING OLDER DRIVER SAFETY

Report Recommends States Share Information on Best Practices to Keep Seniors Safe, Mobile


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Ranking Member Gordon H. Smith (OR) and Chairman Herb Kohl (WI) of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging yesterday released a report compiled by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on older driver safety. The report, written at the request of Smith and Kohl, recommends that the Secretary of Transportation direct the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to implement a mechanism through which states can share information regarding older driver safety practices. At present, states are issued recommendations by the federal government on making roadways easier for older drivers to navigate, such as producing road signs with larger print, placing road signs far enough in advance of turns and exits, and designing less complicated intersections. However, since there has been little research on which of these strategies work best, officials agree that states could benefit most immediately from an exchange of information on successful older driver initiatives.

"A majority of elderly citizens rely on their vehicles as their primary form of transportation to reach their families and communities as well as access essential services," said Senator Smith. "As our population ages, it is important that we work on policies that will allow drivers the freedom to stay safely on the road longer. This report is an important first step in that direction." "The report illustrates that the tools to reduce accidents involving older drivers exist, but that states are hesitant to implement practices which have not been proven successful," said Senator Kohl. "The federal government clearly has a role to fill in this area, and the Department of Transportation can start by encouraging knowledge sharing between the states. The sharing of best practices will make the roadways safer for everyone, especially seniors."

Older drivers are more likely than any other age groupincluding new drivers aged 16 to 24to suffer injuries or die in car crashes. Concerns about older driver safety will only heighten as America's aging population grows. GAO estimates that by 2030 the number of licensed drivers ages 65 and older will nearly double to a total of 57 million. According to GAO, only 24 states reported that they utilize some or all of FHWA's recommended practices in their state design guides for transportation projects.

To conduct its study, GAO surveyed the transportation departments of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, officials were interviewed and documents were supplied by the NHTSA, the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) National Institute on Aging (NIA) and Administration on Aging (AOA), as well as a nongovernmental organization that represents state driver licensing agencies, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA).

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The report can be found online at www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-413