Wrong-Way Car Accidents Averted by a Brave Sheriff’s Deputy

A Pierce County Deputy made a harrowing trip against oncoming traffic as he set out to stop a car going the wrong direction over the Narrows bridge. It happened mid afternoon on Tuesday when the deputy noticed that cars were slamming on their brakes and swerving ahead of him. He then saw a gold Toyota Camry coming towards him. The car was going west in the eastbound lanes. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department says the deputy then turned his emergency lights on and began weaving across all three lanes of traffic to slow the cars behind him down.

The driver of the Camry then cut to the right, crossing all three lanes to enter the HOV lane, before speeding up. The deputy then moved his car into the HOV lane and stopped. As other drivers  kept swerving and speeding by, the Camry slowed to a stop a few feet from the cruiser.

Confused Senior Driver

Inside the car was a confused 94-year-old Poulsbo man with his 88-year-old wife.  The deputy instructed him to turn off the car and hand him the keys. When asked where he was and how he got there, the man could not tell the deputy.  Sheriff’s deputies said that the couple didn’t seem to understand the severity of going the wrong way on the bridge or that it was a danger to themselves as well as the other drivers.

The Sheriff’s Department believe that the old man was driving on Jackson Street in Tacoma, turned down the off-ramp and entered the eastbound traffic, and started driving the wrong way over the bridge in the far left lane. The elderly man said he thought the cars behind him were going too fast and so he entered the freeway to get away from them. He began to change lanes as he approached the jersey barriers near the toll booth in Gig Harbor.

The man and woman were given medical evaluations; and once were cleared, were taken home. The 94-year-old was cited for reckless driving and deputies made arrangements for his family to pick up the Camry.

The Sheriff’s Department would like to invite people to talk to elderly relatives about assessing their driving skills. AARP has an online seminar called “We Need to Talk” that will help provide information and tools on how to have the conversation.

http://komonews.com/news/local/deputy-put-cruiser-in-harms-way-to-stop-wrong-way-driver-on-narrows-bridge

Key Facts about Senior Drivers

Nobody looks forward to having “The Talk” with their elderly family members. But there are so many important keys to keep in mind when approaching this topic with a loved one.

Topics of Discussion With Senior Drivers:

  • Fifty percent of the middle-aged population and 80 percent of people in their 70’s suffer from arthritis, crippling inflammation of the joints, which makes turning, flexing and twisting painful.
  • Weaker muscles, reduced flexibility and limited range of motion restrict senior drivers’ ability to grip and turn the steering wheel, press the accelerator or brake, or reach to open doors and windows.
  • More than 75 percent of drivers age 65 or older report using one or more medications, but less than one-third acknowledged awareness of the potential impact of the medications on driving performance.
  • Per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase beginning at age 75 and rise sharply after age 80. This is mainly due to increased risk of injury and medical complications, rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes.
  • Since older drivers are more fragile, their fatality rates are 17 times higher than those of 25- to 64-year-olds.
  • In 2009, 33 million licensed drivers were over age 65 – a 20 percent increase from 1999. And by the year 2030, 70 million Americans in the U.S. will be over age 65 – and 85 to 90 percent of them will be licensed to drive.
  • In 2014, nearly 5,709 senior drivers were killed and 221,000 were injured in traffic crashes.
  • In 2009, more than 58 percent of deaths in crashes involving drivers over age 65 were older drivers themselves and 12 percent were their passengers. Twenty-eight percent of these deaths were occupants of other vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. By comparison, in the same year 40 percent of deaths in crashes involving at least one driver younger than age 21 were attributed to the younger drivers themselves and 23 percent were their passengers. Thirty-six percent were occupants of other vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • http://seniordriving.aaa.com/resources-family-friends/conversations-about-driving/facts-research/

Maintaining Independence for Senior Drivers

Driving helps maintain independence for older drivers. We are living longer healthier lives, that means more and more elderly drivers are on the road these days. Compared to other age groups, seniors are safe drivers, observing speed limits, and wearing seat belts. Due to age-related vulnerabilities, seniors drive the least but have the highest crash death rate per mile driven.

Cognitive, visual, and physical skills affect driving ability. As these skills deteriorate, driving becomes impaired.

Steps to Stay Safe on the Road

Older adults can take several steps to stay safe on the road, including:

  • Exercising regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
  • Asking your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines–both prescription and over-the counter–to reduce side effects and interactions.
  • Have eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
  • Driving during daylight and in good weather.
  • Finding the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking.
  • Planning your route before you drive.
  • Leaving a large following distance behind the car in front of you.
  • Avoiding distractions in your car, such as listening to a loud radio, talking on your cell phone, texting, and eating.
  • Considering alternatives to driving such as riding with a friend or using public transit to get around.

https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/older_adult_drivers/index.html

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