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MO group aims to keep aging residents off road when it is no longer safe

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- Officials unveiled a public health campaign Wednesday aimed at helping get aging Missouri men and women off the roads when it’s no longer safe for them to drive and at preparing them for life without a license.

The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety’s kicked off its “Arrive Alive After 65” effort with a Columbia news conference that featured two state residents who lost a family member in traffic fatalities caused by older drivers.

The program aims to train doctors, nurses and peer educators to identify vulnerable seniors whose medical conditions may unknowingly pose safety threats. Organizers will start with a pilot project at University Hospital in Columbia and Mercy Hospital in Springfield and later look to take the effort statewide.

The Missouri Department of Transportation reported 126 traffic deaths statewide in 2012 involving drivers 65 and older. Another 435 older Missourians were seriously injured while driving last year, with another 3,500 less serious injuries among older drivers. People 55 and older accounted for more than one in four traffic deaths in Missouri last year.

University of Missouri senior Nina Bolka, whose older sister’s death led to successful family efforts to change Texas driving laws, invoked a phrase more commonly heard by new teen drivers, not those with decades of experience behind the wheel.

“Driving is a right, not a privilege,” Bolka said. A 2007 law named for her sister requires Texas drivers 79 and older to appear in person for license renewals. Previously, such drivers—or their adult children—could renew licenses online. Drivers older than 85 must renew their Texas licenses every two years.

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