Documentary Notes First Anniversary of Deadly Calif. Farmer’s Market Crash

July 15, 2004

One year ago, an 86-year-old California resident crashed his vehicle into the Santa Monica Farmer’s market, killing 10 people and injuring many others.

This tragic accident focused a national spotlight on the issue of elderly driving and catapulted the discussion of a serious and sensitive topic from America’s dining tables to a national stage. To mark this anniversary, San Francisco’s PBS station KQED (Ch. 9) and 21st Century Insurance will premiere “The Golden Road” on Saturday, July 17 at 5:30 p.m. with a simulcast broadcast at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

This documentary-styled broadcast, produced by KQED and underwritten by 21st Century Insurance, is designed to help senior drivers and their families correctly assess their driving abilities and decrease driving dangers. The documentary was made in cooperation with the California Highway Patrol, which plans to use the broadcast as an integral part of its community-based senior outreach in conjunction with its Older Californian Traffic Safety (OCTS) Task Force. The CHP plans to distribute copies of “The Golden Road” to each of its 100 offices statewide.

“Even realizing that older drivers, as a group, tend to be safe, we have to realize that at some point, they may have physical and cognitive problems that do interfere with their ability to drive and that put them and other drivers at risk. In view of that, it’s important for seniors to understand that self assessment is critical,” said OCTS Task Force Chair and CHP Commissioner D.O. “Spike” Helmick.

There are nearly 36 million seniors (65 and older) living in the U.S and by 2030, that number is expected to more then double. In California alone there are currently 5-1/2 million licensed drivers aged 55 and older. Over 2-1/2 million of them are 70 and older.

“As drivers age, the changes to their bodies affect their ability to drive,” said geriatric physician Dr. Irina de Fischer. “Diminished eyesight, increased fatigue, loss of limb mobility, as well as the body’s reaction to prescription medications are all factors in an older driver’s diminished driving abilities.”

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, seniors are expected to represent 25 percent of the driving age population and 25 percent of fatal crash involvements by 2030. When measured by actual miles driven, elderly drivers are more likely to be involved in fatal car crashes than any other adult age group (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).

“The deterioration of a loved-one’s driving abilities can reach a point where families are confronted with a heart wrenching situation – but one that must be faced,” said Joyce Prager, assistant vice president of community relations for 21st Century Insurance. “We funded the production of ‘The Golden Road’ to provide self-assessment tips for senior drivers, and give family members tips on how to talk to aging drivers about this important issue.”

“The Golden Road” is 30 minutes long and is narrated by Wil Lymon, the voice of PBS programming NOVA and Front Line. Free limited edition DVDs of the documentary will be available at the live San Francisco simulcast and for purchase at PBS stations in California and around the country plan to air this program in the months ahead.

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