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New Study Shows Cost Could Be Barrier To Safety For Older Drivers

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Be it the recent flea market tragedy in California, or destruction on Capital Boulevard, car crashes caused by older drivers are getting a lot of airtime these days.

A new study ranks North Carolina seventh nationwide in the number of older drivers killed in automobile crashes. And cost is a barrier on the road to safety.

An 86-year-old man recently drove his car into a crowded California flea market, killing several people and causing numerous injuries. Tuesday, a 78-year-old woman hit the gas instead of the brake, causing $5,000 damage at a Capital Boulevard dry cleaner.

Many people say older drivers need to be off the road. But the new study suggests the problem


the roads.

According to

The Road Information Program,

a highway research non-profit organization, wider lanes and shoulders, better lighting and more turn lanes at intersections would help older drivers.

But, also, said state highway safety engineer Kevin Lacy, "it would be a budget buster."

Lacy said the Department of Transportation gets grants to help with older-driver issues -- but not enough.

"You have an unlimited demand on a limited resource," Lacy said, "and in this case, funding is always a limited resource. How to best apply those is a big challenge."

Researchers also say older drivers often have trouble reading signs.

Nevertheless, at age 82, Madelyn Gattis is still confident behind the wheel.

"I don't have any trouble with the signs, you know," Gattis said. "They're large enough."

She may have the best safety plan of all.

"I've already told my children," Gattis said. "If they see any signs and don't think I should be driving anymore, just say: 'Mother, give us your keys.' And I'm going to hand them over."

According to the

TRIP study,

the number of drivers age 70 and up killed in crashes nationwide increased 27 percent from 1991 to 2001.

Keep in mind, there are also more older drivers now than 10 years ago.

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