Senior accidents prompt program

MARIETTA – The Ohio Highway Patrol and Marietta Memorial Hospital joined in the program “Know When to Say When: Driver Fitness in the Golden Years.”

Rick Headley, certified driver rehabilitation specialist for the hospital, said the partnership with the patrol will benefit many people.

“Aging can be a triumph or tragedy,” he said. “Our goal is to keep people driving as long as possible, as long as they can do it safely. Our goals and that of the patrol are a natural partnership; it’s a natural fit.”

Headley said that while the national rate for senior crashes has decreased in recent years, locally, the numbers aren’t as great.

“As a whole nation, the accident rate for seniors has decreased, but we don’t fit into that in our area,” he said. “Over the last decade, the amount of drivers 65 and older, that population has increased by 20 percent. People 65 and older are three times more likely to be killed in a vehicle crash and that’s age related.”

Lt. Carlos Smith, of the Marietta Post of the highway patrol, said after looking at increasing crashes among mature drivers locally, and an aging population, he knew something needed to be done.

“I saw an increase in accidents among mature drivers in the county and in the coming years the driving population will mature more: 50 million by 2020,” Smith said. “We’re trying to spearhead it and catch it before it becomes an issue.”

Marietta resident Ada Hinton, 78, said she’s taken her driving into her own hands.

“I’m 78 and I’m still living in my apartment and I drive where I need to go,” she said. “My son told me, ‘The first scrape or accident, I’m taking your license.’ I said, ‘That’s fine; I’ll give it up.’ If I ever have a fender bender or cause an accident, I’d be glad to give it up.”

Three education sessions, one a month starting in August and ending in October, are planned. Headley said the goal is to educate seniors and their family about driving through the golden years, and trying to keep their licenses as long as safely possible.

“Lt. Smith will be talking about the State Highway Patrol’s perspective and history of their attempts to decrease crashes,” he said. “(He’ll give) an overview of why there’s an issue in our area. I’m going to talk about preventative things, how they can extend their driving career through defensive driving tactics and nutritionally.”

In addition, Headley said there will be driver evaluations, where drivers can actually get behind the wheel of a car with Lt. Smith to test maneuverability and driving skills.

“We’re excited to be a part of it,” he said. “It’s a great event.”

The first session will be 9-noon Aug. 9 at the Strecker Cancer Center Conference Room at Marietta Memorial. The second will be Sept. 11 at the Belpre Senior Center. The third and final session will be in October, date and location to be announced.

Smith said that the goal is to “empower” drivers and their families.

“Just because you become a mature driver, doesn’t mean you can’t drive anymore; you have to change your skills,” he said. “We want to empower people so they can make informed decisions on how to become a better driver and use their skills to the best of their ability without taking the keys away; taking the keys away is a last resort.”