VIRGINIA

GrandDriver aims to keep seniors safe on the roads

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With its central location and relatively mild weather, Virginia is home to one of the fastest growing senior citizen populations in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to AAA, senior citizens have the highest rates of fatal crashes per miles driven, next to teen drivers.

As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, there come new challenges, especially on local roadways.

At Leisure World in Leesburg Monday, drivers 55 and older get their cars evaluated. Volunteers also make adjustments to seats, mirrors, and steering wheels.

“That airbag, which comes out at 200 mph, is going to come out at a split second, and if they’re too close to that steering wheel, it’s going to hurt them,” says Joe Beddick, AAA Mid-Atlantic Safety Services manager.

Virginia’s GrandDriver program is offered by the Department for Aging, AARP, and AAA. In the end, transportation leaders hope the CarFit inspections will help drivers feel more comfortable and confident.

“It makes them safer in the long run, and there’s nobody here that’s going to take away keys. We’re not here to do that. We’re here to help you drive safer, longer,” Beddick says.

According to AAA, senior citizens have the highest rates of fatal crashes per miles driven, next to teen drivers. In Virginia alone, there were nearly 15,000 senior citizen-related crashes in 2011, and 4 percent of those crashes led to fatalities.

“I don’t like to drive at night as much, but as long as I know the area there’s no problem,” Eli Linden says. She’s been driving since 1951.

A lot has changed over the years, both on the roads and in cars.

“A lot more buttons to push, things to adjust,” Emily Lipson says.

And as we age, our bodies change, too.

“We get bone loss and people start shrinking and they need to be able to see over the steering wheel, at least three inches above the steering wheel, which is another measurement that we take,” says Nancy Lo, the coordinator of Virginia GrandDriver.

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