News from the Older Californian Traffic Safety Task Force

CONTACT: Kent Milton, CHP (916) 657-7202

June 21, 2004

SACRAMENTO--- The Older Californian Traffic Safety(OCTS)Task Force begins its second year with several ambitious programs under way or about to start, CHP Commissioner D.O. 'Spike' Helmick, task force chair, said this week. "We have moved from agenda to action in a number of key areas," he noted, summarizing these accomplishments:

DRIVER LICENSING-Research which could lead to a more sensitive license exam is nearing completion. The Department of Motor Vehicles says its proposed three-tier test would take applicants through a progression of steps that measure both physical and cognitive abilities, including a drive test if deemed necessary. The new exam would be routine for people 70 and older when they return to DMV for license renewal.

AGING SERVICES-- The task force is cooperating in promotion of a new American Society on Aging course for seniors called "Road to Driving Wellness." The half-day class emphasizes the impact that good health has on driving longevity. "What that means is: stay well--stay driving," Helmick said. The instruction includes tips on improving flexibility and how to adapt a vehicle to fit special driving needs. It is expected that the course will become available through Areas Agencies on Aging, senior centers and other locations.

HEALTH SERVICES-The American Medical Association recently distributed a series of guidelines to encourage the health care community's recognition of functional problems that could interfere with driving. The OCTS Task Force summarized these in a simple form that tells physicians and other health professionals at a glance what physical and mental symptoms may be "red flags" indicating potential driving impairment. Distribution of this handy guide is expected to begin this summer.

LAW ENFORCEMENT-Training for peace officers is being developed to encourage their constructive response when they encounter an older driver exhibiting problem behavior. Law enforcement officers have the option of asking DMV to re-examine any driver believed to represent a hazard. (The three-tier test described above is expected to become the test of choice in these cases).

TRANSPORTATION SAFETY-Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidelines describe a variety of roadway and signing changes that could simplify driving for seniors. The OCTS Task Force is working with state and local authorities to begin including many of these modifications into manuals that govern roadway design.

Commissioner Helmick said task force studies of driver licensing issues reveal a need to help older people find other forms of transportation if they have to stop driving. "Isolation is an unkind fate. If we can figure a way to link these people with social service agencies that can keep them connected with society, the task force may take this as an objective."

He said another problem that came up in task force discussions was "how to deal with the driver and vehicle when a peace officer decides the person he or she has just stopped should drive no further. Right now we don't have authority to take the car, or an established procedure to transport the driver." Helmick said he expected a number of these additional issues to emerge as the task force work proceeds. "That's the advantage of having the task force working on so many fronts. We have the capacity to deal with the unexpected."

Funding provided in part by an Office of Traffic Safety grant