Barbara Hersman, Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, just held two days of hearings on the safety of older drivers in Washington, DC. The NTSB is guiding the public’s attention to the safety needs of older people and their families.
A few years ago, when Ms. Hersman was first looking into this issue, we had an appointment to meet in Washington to talk about the connection between driving and the alternatives older people face when they make the decision to move to the passenger seat. The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent federal agency that looks into all manner of transportation safety, and sure enough, there literally was a train wreck the day of our meeting. Ms. Hersman was called away and we never did reschedule.
Maybe, if that meeting had taken place, transportation alternatives might have made it onto the agenda for the two days of hearings, which not only explored the safety issues related to the aging driver but possible strategies to prevent and reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities.
Some of the experts, notably Sandi Rosenbloom, explained that a lack of alternatives forces people to stay behind the wheel longer than it is safe for them to do so. Sandi is a brilliant transportation analyst whose work many years ago influenced the thinking that went into the development of the Independent Transportation Network®.
We will need more than references to the need for alternatives to focus the nation’s attention on mobility, as well as safety, for the aging population. The hearings in Washington are a good starting place. They bring the safety issue into the light of day, and place it high on the national agenda. Now we need something similar for the other half of the equation—mobility.