An 86-year-old man admitted he confused the gas pedal for the brake pedal when he plowed through a California shopping district, leaving 10 dead and more than 50 injured.
Since the accident, the Extra Mile Program through Foote Hospital in Jackson, has had more calls from people interested in having their driving skills evaluated. Drivers like 80-year-old Bill Rea:
"It's a good idea. But I think everyone should take this test," says Bill.
An occupational therapist examines things like depth perception, flexibility and reaction time. Then a driver sits in a simulator before taking an actual road test.
A typical driver makes about 20 decisions per mile, which makes a simulator test appropriate for drivers of every age.
"Normal aging begins at 30 or 40. I don't think it's right to say that just because you're 70 you should have a driver's test. Aging is an individual process," explains Kelley Kozloff, Occupational Therapist.
"We're not here to take their license away. We want to keep them on the road and help them whether it be with an extra brake pedal or extended mirrors," adds Annette Werner, Manager.
Small steps that can prevent tragedies like the one in Santa Monica.
The $375 fee for the program can be covered by insurance in some cases. For more information call 517-841-7400.
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Fatality Facts: Older Drivers 6,719 people 65 years and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2001. This is less than a 1 percent drop since 2000 but a 26 percent increase since 1975. Eighty percent of elderly deaths in 2001 motor vehicle crashes were passenger vehicle occupants, and 16 percent were pedestrians. Since 1975, deaths of elderly passenger vehicle occupants has increased by nearly sixty percent while pedestrian deaths have declined by forty percent. Although far fewer older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number is increasing. More than ten times as many people 65 years and older were killed on motorcycles in 2001 than in 1975. People 65 years and older represented 16 percent of the driving age population in 2001 and were involved in 16 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes. By 2030, elderly people are expected to represent 25 percent of the driving age population and 25 percent of fatal crash involvements In 2001, people age 80 and older had more motor vehicle deaths per 100,000 people (24) than other groups except people younger than 25 (29).
Institute research has shown that in 1995, per mile driven, drivers 75 years and older had higher rates of fatal motor vehicle crashes than drivers in other age groups except teenagers.
Per licensed driver, fatal crash rates in 2001 rose sharply at age 75 and older.
About half of fatal crashes in 2001 involving drivers 80 years and older occurred at intersections and involved more than one vehicle. This compares with 24 percent among drivers up to age 65.
In 2001, people 80 years and older had the highest pedestrian death rates per 100,000 people.
At age 80 and older, the pedestrian death rate per 100,000 people among men is 3 times higher in 2001 than among younger pedestrians.
Males age 80 and older have a pedestrian death rate more than twice as high as females of the same age.
The motor vehicle death rate per 100,000 people begins to rise among males at age 70. By age 80 and older, the rate among men is twice as high as it is at age 40-74.
At all ages, males have much higher motor vehicle death rates per 100,000 people compared with females. By age 85 and older, the rate is nearly 3 times as high among men as among women.
Only eight-percent of fatally injured drivers 65 years and older had a BAC of 0.08 or greater, compared with over 30 percent among drivers younger than 65.
Source: http://www.highwaysafety.org/ (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Web site) contributed to this report.