Tricounty News

Senior driving-related fatalities warrant attention



The change of the season, which often delivers a spike in vehicle crashes, coupled with recent crash data prompt the Minnesota Highway Safety and Research Center (MHSRC) to issue an alert for Minnesota drivers.

The recently released Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2009, published by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, is reason for both celebration and concern. Celebration, because, we continue to experience a consistent decline in traffic fatalities in our state. The reasons for this trend are many, including; education, enforcement, vehicle and roadway engineering, seat belt use, and emergency medical care to name a few. Concern, because, although the 421 deaths we experienced on our roads in 2009 are the lowest since the 1940s, this is still a high number with incredible loss and unspeakable sorrow for those affected. Further, alarming trends exist in relation to certain age groups. Specifically, young drivers and senior drivers who, many experts believe, are at the greatest risk of being killed on our roads.

In fact, crash data shows, senior drivers over the age of 65 are overly involved in fatal crashes. At the same time, many experts agree these same senior drivers are generally good drivers. Still, the facts remain; crashes senior drivers are involved in are much more likely to result in a fatality than other age groups. It is for this very reason the Minnesota Highway Safety and Research Center has had a long history of promoting driver and traffic safety training for the 55+ population.

In every county and most communities in our state, senior drivers have the opportunity to become safer drivers and save money on their automobile insurance premiums. "Minnesota drivers over the age of 55+ have a unique opportunity to protect themselves and keep more money in their pockets", stated Larry Nadeau, Director of Outreach at the MN Highway Safety and Research Center (MHSRC). Minnesota law allows for drivers age 55 and older to take a classroom driver accident prevention course and obtain a 10-percent discount on their automobile insurance premium. The law has been in effect for many years, still, only a minority of the eligible drivers actually take advantage of the program.

"We want to do all we can to promote this program and make Minnesota roads safer", Nadeau said. Typical course content involves information relevant to changes in laws, vehicle technology, vehicle dynamics, defensive driving tips, and issues related to aging. First time participants need to take an eight-hour class while those needing a refresher only need a four-hour class every three years to maintain the insurance discount.

There are many good Senior Driver Improvement Courses offered throughout the state. Those interested in the MHSRC Driver Improvement Program can look for class location, dates and times at www.mnsafetycenter.org, or by calling (888) 234-1294.