Stories behind the signs: Dangers for older drivers

Published: Aug. 30, 2019 at 8:51 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Senior citizens are far less likely than other drivers to be involved in a traffic accident, according to the CDC. However, they're far more likely to be injured in one.

That’s why increased efforts by individuals, families, and organizations aim to increase awareness about senior driving safety.

For this month's Stories Behind the Signs, 19 News is shining a focus on what resources are available to these drivers and their families.

Mary Lou Gallimore is with AAA, which partners with local organizations to bring communities Car Fit. Car Fit is a one-on-one consultation, where experts can examine a senior driver's vehicle to ensure it is optimized for their own bodies.

“A lot of times as we age, our legs don’t get shorter, but it gets harder for us to reach the pedals. We get too close to the steering wheel,” said Mary Lou Gallimore.

Sharon Kelly came to Car Fit in August, as it arrived at the Sopremo Senior Center in Wadsworth.

"As a senior citizen, we're getting shorter, so everything changes in the car. It's better to have someone else check it out for us," said Kelly.

An examination revealed that Kelly was sitting too close to the steering wheel. This is important information, as seniors can be injured while sitting too close to the wheel, in case of an airbag deployment.

"Why not know that everything is just right for Sharon Kelly?" said Kelly.

On that Friday in August, Gallimore said about a dozen older drivers came to the free Car Fit examination. She said many drivers came alone, while others visited with grown children, who were hoping to make sure the vehicles their parents drove were safe for them.

“As we age, our bodies become more fragile. You take two people being in a crash. At 30, 40 years old, you’re going to walk away from that crash, sometimes, no problems, while a 60-to-70-year old and more person, their body, the fragility, of their body, is going to really affect them,” Gallimore said.

While the physical components are important, experts say, they are not the only considerations that matter.

Matt Gurwell is a former Ohio State Trooper, who now runs the organization 'Keeping Us Safe," which provides support and counseling for older drivers and their families.

Among the services, his Beyond Driving with Dignity program provides is advice for when and how senior drivers should retire from the road.

"I think one of the most important {factors} is falls in the home. Studies have been done that show that if you've had two or more falls in the past year, you're twice as likely to be in a traffic crash, but you're three times more likely to be the at-fault driver," said Matt Gurwell.

Gurwell says many senior drivers agree to retire from driving if they feel they are physically or cognitively unable to continue doing so safely. To find out more about his program, go to

As of August 2019, 702 people have died on Ohio’s roadways. That’s down five fatal accidents from this time last year.

Copyright 2019 WOIO. All rights reserved.