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Death raises questions about older drivers

11:06 PM, Jan 28, 2014   |    comments
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DENVER - Two deadly accidents involving drivers over the age of 80 this month has increased the focus on senior driving in Colorado.

Crashes involving people 65 and older have increased, according to state statistics. But it doesn't mean seniors are careless or not as safe.

"There's no cut-and-dry age when someone should stop driving," Wave Dreher with AAA Colorado said.

Mental and physical skills come and go with age. Dreher says everyone on the road deals with it.

"We have just learned over the years, there are things seniors can do that can make them better drivers," Dreher said.

Two recent deadly crashes involving senior drivers have made headlines in Colorado.

An 85-year-old driver is accused in a fatal hit-and-run on Jan. 9 that killed Leanna Hund. Sunday, a head-on collision killed Jefferson County Sheriff Sergeant David Baldwin. The suspect in that crash is an 83-year-old Golden man.

Most recent crash statistics from 2012 in Colorado show 92 deaths from car accidents that year were people over the age of 65. It was a three percent increase from previous data.

Totals among teen drivers, another heavily studied age group, were 87 deaths, a drop-off of 17 percent.

Dreher studies these figures but says there are other contributing factors.

"The population of Colorado is aging," she said. "Senior drivers are more fragile. They're more apt to be injured [or] killed."

The numbers themselves can turn in a favorable direction for seniors.

AAA offers programs that work like health checks for drivers. The tests are completed on a computer and test reaction time and eye sight.

"It can tell you your far forward vision is fine, but your peripheral vision is slipping," Dreher said.

AAA-sponsored reviews also cover medication checks and car fittings suited for smaller drivers. They're geared for older drivers.

At age 61, Colorado law requires drivers to renew their licenses. Every five years after that, they must pass a vision test.

To lessen motor vehicle deaths and other traffic safety issues, the Colorado Department of Transportation is now offering grant funds through the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.

Any agency or organization within the state which provides services or strategies to lower crash rates and injuries, are eligible. The total projected funding available is $3.5 million. The average award amount typically ranges from $50,000 to $75,000.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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