The headlines were all-too-real. In July 2003 an 86-year-old man plowed through a Santa Monica, California, farmers market killing 10 people. Now the American Automobile Association (AAA) has recommended that states improve their medical review boards by including provisions that evaluate whether motorists are physically and mentally fit to drive. The analysis coincides with the National Transportation Safety Board’s soon-to-be-released report about the Santa Monica incident.

Smiling grandpa

According to AAA, 15 states have no medical advisory boards to determine the medical guidelines for safe drivers and the boards in 31 states and the District of Columbia lack crucial elements AAA outlines in its Basic Best Practices for Medical Advisory/Review Boards. These recommendations were developed using information from surveys conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.

“Because we all age at different rates, seniors’ decisions to drive or not to drive should be based on their mental and physical abilities to drive, not simply on their chronological age,” says Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, AAA Director of Traffic Safety Policy. “This decision will often involve many people such as a spouse, family member, or doctor. Medical advisory boards are important because they don’t just determine when it is not safe for someone to drive; they determine when it is safe for people with medical conditions to continue driving.”

To help seniors who can no longer drive because of physical or mental impairments, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also released a report in partnership with the Beverly Foundation that catalogs over 400 supplemental transportation programs for seniors (STPs) in the United States. These STPs are community-based transportation programs that complement or supplement existing transportation services.

“What sets supplemental transportation programs apart is that they reach an underserved population of older adults who have special mobility needs,” says Peter Kissinger, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, president and CEO. “STPs supplement and often complement the efforts of family members, neighbors, and friends enabling seniors to stay mobile.”

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