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July 11, 2012

Debate over senior drivers intensifies in wake of tragic crash

New York State Police are continuing their investigation of the crash that killed three Michigan residents early Monday on Grand Island. 

And while many details remain unclear, the tragic incident involving an 87-year-old Kenmore man who had been driving north in the southbound side of I-190 for more than eight miles before the collision has reignited the discussion about how to ensure elderly drivers don’t pose a danger behind the wheel.

Dr. Robert Stall, a local expert on geriatric issues, offered a few suggestions on how to improve safety on the roads.

“I don’t think that there should be an age limit for retesting, because it is actually those under age 25 who are involved in the most accidents,” Stall said. “I think a more reasonable approach is mandating a driver safety test for drivers of all ages periodically when registration comes due.”

These driver safety tests are offered by the AARP and AAA frequently in the area. AARP classes are held at local senior centers, and cost $17 for AARP members and $19 for non-members. Completing the course rewards students with a 10 percent insurance discount. 

In addition to these courses, Stall advises family members of the elderly to keep an eye on minor incidents such as fender benders, as well as physical problems such as vision or hearing loss. By taking a family member to a doctor, Stall believes many incidents could be prevented. 

Stall is currently involved in research to aid elderly drivers suffering from dementia and help them stay on the roads.

“One of the solutions to the problem may be technology,” Stall said. “I know that there is speculation that the entrance Hildebrand used Monday morning may be confusing — so better signage could help, or alarms could be used that would go off when a driver is going the wrong way.” 

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