On June 20, 2012, 29 year old Christopher Offenbacker, died when the motorcycle he was riding collided broadside into a car driven by an 83 year old man who was crossing the westbound lanes ahead.  The accident occurred in Prattville, AL just before 2 p.m.  It was a clear sunny day and weather conditions played no part in the cause of the accident.  Christopher was transported to Jackson Hospital in Montgomery where he passed away soon after arrival.  I have not been privy to particulars of the accident and do not place blame, but out of tragedy came an opportunity to address a situation I’ve wondered about for quite some time. 

This is the second major motorcycle accident in the Montgomery area where an elderly driver was involved, and it makes me ask how often that happens.  No one wants to needlessly hamper an elderly person’s independence and ability to handle their own affairs, but eventually there comes a time when the elderly should give up driving, whether voluntarily, or not. 

Martin’s mom voluntarily surrendered her automobile and had her son sell it when she felt her health had declined to the point that she might pose a risk to other drivers.  That was a hard decision for her because traveling meant the world to her, and I admire her so much for making that decision on her own. 

Any family with an elderly parent or other relative who drives should monitor their abilities and a good way to do that is by having them take the driver’s improvement exam from AAA.  The booklet can be picked up or ordered through Triple A, or accessed on-line and printed at www.SeniorDriving.aaa.com.  They also offer safe driving classes for the elderly driver. 

The Hartford Insurance Co. offers a pamphlet on Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Driving to help families understand the risk of such a person driving, both to themselves and to others.  http://hartfordauto.thehartford.com/Safe-Driving/Car-Safety/Older-Driver-Safety/Dementia-Activity/

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers an excellent booklet to help the elderly and their families evaluate their driving skills and can be accessed at: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/olddrive/Driving%20Safely%20Aging%20Web/index.html

The booklet is entitled Driving Safely While Aging Gracefully.  Questions are designed to determine if the elderly driver’s vision is adequate, if their physical health is stable enough to operate a vehicle, and very importantly, if their mental faculties and attention span are adequate enough that they can identify risks and react to them quickly enough to avoid an accident.  Once those issues have been determined, the booklet goes on to offer advice on driving safely, or finding alternate forms of transportation.  It is an excellent resource and is free.

HowsmyDriving.com is a system for monitoring the elderly driver’s skills.  The goal is to keep the driver on the road as long as he or she can do so safely while providing information on recognizing when the elderly driver’s vision, physical condition, or reaction time have diminished beyond that point. 

Brochures and a safe driving course are available through AARP.  888-227-7669.  AARP 55 ALIVE Mature Driving, 601 E. Street, NW, Washington, DC  20049.  www.aarp.org/55alive.

ADED:  The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists.  P. O. Box 49, Edgerton, WI  53534.  608-884-8833.  www.driver-ed.org.  ADED provides fact sheets and a rehabilitation directory.

These are only a few of the resources available on this subject, but it’s a start toward avoiding another fatality or horrific injury.  Please access the sites or order the booklets and go over them with your loved ones.  All traffic fatalities are a terrible tragedy, whether they involve a motorcycle or not, I have addressed the high profile crashes involving motorcycles and riders because this is, after all, a motorcycle blog.  Take care, ride safely, & may God Bless.  Vrumblesramblingbikerblog.wordpress.com.

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