AAA Michigan: Intersection Improvements Reduce Senior Driver Injuries at Better Rate than Other Age Groups

June 27, 2005

Analysis of crash data from a road demonstration program in Michigan found that low-cost intersection improvements had a significantly greater safety benefit for drivers 65 and older than for drivers 25 to 64, AAA announced.

According to the nation’s largest organization for motorists, AAA
Michigan’s “Road Improvement Demonstration Program” (RIDP) reduced the rate of senior driver injuries at 30 high-crash intersections in Detroit since 1997, by more than twice the rate of injury reduction for 25-64 year old drivers. In addition, the rate of left turn collisions involving senior drivers dropped 84 percent when a left turn signal was added to an intersection.

On the heels of these results, AAA is strongly urging U.S. House
and Senate conferees to approve a federal transportation bill that will enable states to make senior friendly road improvements — such as intersection safety programs and investments in better signage and pavement markings.

“Senior drivers are more likely than other age groups to be killed or
injured in intersection crashes,” said Bella Dinh-Zarr, AAA national
director of traffic safety policy. “The funding and policy changes contained in the federal highway bill under consideration by Congress could jump-start efforts to reduce crashes at urban signalized intersections across the country.”

Analysis of the safety improvements also showed a statistically
significant reduction in the total number of crashes (25 percent) among all drivers and a reduction in the total number of injuries (40 percent) at the first 84 intersections improved in Detroit and Grand Rapids. These improvements will benefit society more than $100 million in medical care, emergency services, property damage, and productivity losses due to crashes over the next 15 years, according to AAA.

“While the improvements implemented as part of the program were not
particularly targeted at a specific age group, they had a significant positive effect on senior drivers who are among the most vulnerable road users,” said Richard Miller, manager of Community Safety Services for AAA Michigan. “Senior friendly road designs such as intersection improvements greatly reduce death and injury to our aging population, and will also ultimately help protect people of all ages.”

People over 65 are the fastest-growing population in the United States,
according to government statistics. By 2020, there will be more than 40 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older. Senior crash fatality rates have climbed while overall fatality rates have remained stable since 1991. Senior drivers have the highest crash death rate per mile of everyone except teenagers.

“Nationwide policies for intersection safety should be based on proven
programs implemented and evaluated at the state level,” said Dinh-Zarr, who recently was appointed by the President to serve on the bi-partisan advisory committee for the White House Conference on Aging. “Michigan’s experience demonstrates the benefits to seniors and all drivers derived from a comprehensive approach to intersection safety. That’s one more reason for Congress to pass the transportation bill to help our aging population.”

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