CRASHES ON THE RISE: YOUNGER ADULTS AND OLDER ADULTS AT RISK

WILKES-BARRE, PA (Tuesday, July 24, 2012)– A new federal report says highway crashes are higher for the first quarter of the year – and AAA is especially concerned about the risks for younger adults and senior citizens, who die in crashes more than other age groups.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says an estimated 7,630 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the first quarter of 2012. This represents a significant increase of about 13.5 percent, compared to the 6,720 fatalities that were projected to have occurred in the first quarter of 2011.

The increase may be partly due to higher traffic volume over the very mild winter – people tend to drive more in good weather. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Younger adults are driving less, and more than a quarter of people under age 34 lack a driver’s license. Yet motor vehicle crashes are still the leading cause of death for young adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In a new report, the CDC says that 22% of the nation’s motor vehicle deaths were among those age 15-24, even though they represent just 14% of the U.S. population.

And summer is the deadliest time for young drivers, containing five of the top 10 worst days of the year for fatal highway crashes involving teens, based on AAA’s analysis of crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

July is overall the deadliest month for highway fatalities in Pennsylvania, according to PennDOT’s newly released 2011 Crash Facts & Statistics book. Out of 1,286 highway fatalities in the state last year, 140 of them (nearly 11%) happened in July.

The latest crash data for Pennsylvania shows an increase in fatalities involving a 16-year old driver – a jump to 29 fatalities in 2011, compared to 19 for 2010. And about 4.5% of those 17-21 got in a crash last year in the state.

“Along with summer fun, young drivers and their families should set aside some time to learn about safety and practice careful driving habits,” said Jenny M. Robinson, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. Here are some tips – and you can find more free information and resources at AAA.com/TeenDriving.

Know the graduated driver licensing system for your state
Sign a parent-teen driving agreement that stipulates teens will not ride as passengers of teen drivers without a parent’s advance permission
Provide transportation alternatives for teens who honor that pledge
Talk with other parents so they know the rules for your teen and will help enforce them
Spend time as a passenger when your teen is at the wheel. Your presence and your guidance help make your teen a safer driver

Senior drivers also require special attention, thanks to their growing numbers. 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, and by 2020—just eight years from now—it’s estimated that nearly one in six people will be age 65 or older and most of them will still be licensed to drive. Pennsylvania has more than 1.6 million drivers who are 65 and older – about 18 percent of the state’s total number of licensed drivers.

Seniors tend to drive carefully; in Pennsylvania last year, only about 1 percent of 65+ year-old drivers got in a crash. Yet there were 247 highway fatalities among senior citizens in the state last year – about 20 percent of deaths, due partly to the large numbers of senior drivers but also in some cases due to more fragile health, especially among drivers over 75 years old.

AAA Mid-Atlantic is helping seniors stay active by driving safer and longer, with free help and resources available at AAA.com/Senior Driving. This one-stop website offers state-specific driver information, quizzes, videos and Q&As, slideshows and even unique brain fitness exercises shown to cut the risk of a traffic crash in half. The site is free and open to members and non-members alike.

To help manage the effects of aging on driving ability, AAA Mid-Atlantic also offers the following resources for older drivers:

· AAA Roadwise Review is a computer-based self-screening tool designed to assess a driver’s functional abilities important to safe driving.
· CarFit and AAA’s Smart Features for Mature Drivers help to enhance seniors’ comfort and safety while driving.
· AAA Mid-Atlantic offers classroom and online courses, which provide driver training to help address the changes caused by aging and how a driver may compensate. Class availability varies by state.

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