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apparently hit the accelerator rather than the brake, sending her SUV crashing into the lobby of the fast-food restaurant. Miraculously, no one was injured in that incident. Despite using a walker to get around, and having several undisclosed medical condi- tions, this woman still is viewed by the State of Florida as qualified to drive. And she is not alone. According to federal statistics, Florida has the highest rate of crash fatalities involving senior drivers. Even California, with nearly twice Florida's popula- tion, had fewer crash fatalities that involve older drivers, accord- ing to the most recent statistics. T h a t p r o b l e m undoubtedly will get worse, as aging "baby boomers" swell the ranks of elderly drivers in the state to one-in-four by 2030, according to state estimates. Another recent highway tragedy involved a "wrong way" driver, causing a horrific colli- sion on Interstate 275 north of Tampa, as his SUV collided with a car full of local college students. All involved in the crash perished. While the wrong-way driver was in his 20s, these types of accidents are becoming more frequent, and they are more likely to have deadly consequences. Further, accord- ing to statistics, older drivers — especially those 70 and older — are disproportionately represented among those behind the wheel in wrong-way crashes. It is understandable why there is considerable impetus for keeping older drivers licensed as long as possible. In Florida, mobility is almost essential for a good quality of life. The ability to drive oneself where one needs to go often goes hand-in-hand with independence and self-care. Losing the ability to drive has harsh consequences for the well being of seniors in too many instances. However, that is a failing of state and local government. It is not a solution to simply allow infirm drivers who are incapable of properly controlling a motor vehicle to wreak havoc on our roadways. Even one innocent death does not justify such a reck- less public policy. Instead, the state must do a better job of cre- ating alternatives for maintaining mobility for seniors after they stop driving. Current mass transit systems are only marginally useful for the special needs of most older people. A better idea would be some sort of sub- scription service for semi-on-demand transportation, supported in part by payments made by the seniors as members. Those who have cars and drive incur con- siderable expense in the process. In addition to the capital cost of the vehicles, they must purchase insurance, gasoline, oil, tires and It is not a solution to simply allow infirm drivers who are incapable of properly controlling a motor vehicle to wreak havoc on our roadways. OPINION Sarasota News Leader February 14, 2014 Page 89

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