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New website helps senior citizens see correlation between medicine and driving

A recently launched website can help senior citizens taking medications read and process how the combination may affect their driving ability, according to a AAA Mid-Atlantic news release.

The tool, called Roadwise Rx, caters to the "silver tsunami" - the influx of Americans, 10,000 every day, turning 65. More than 80 percent of drivers 65 and older are on medication, and about half of those have talked to a medical professional about the impact such prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines may have on their safety behind the wheel, according to a AAA Mid-Atlantic release disseminated Wednesday.

"Instead of patients walking into their doctor's office with a bag filled with their pill bottles, Roadwise Rx offers a more streamlined option for patients to compile a printed list of their medications, along with potential driver safety implications, and present to their doctor for review and discussion," Ragina C. Averella, AAA Mid-Atlantic manager of public and government affairs, said in the release.

Those browsing Roadwise Rx - which the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and a web developer created - can type in various medications that they are taking. In turn, the site will spit back how these combinations can affect driving, mixing with certain foods and combining with other medicines, according to the release.

In 2011, 246 Carroll County drivers 65 to 100 years old were involved in a vehicle crash, according to Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration Data. The senior citizen was at fault about 55 percent of the time, the data shows.

The 2011 data is not yet considered closed because agencies have until January 2013 to submit their data, according to Buel Young, Maryland MVA spokesman.

In 2010, 261 Carroll County drivers 65 to 100 years old were in a vehicle collision, and it was their fault 55 percent of the time, Maryland MVA data shows.

These numbers do not indicate if the senior citizen was taking a medication at the time of the collision.

Kathy Wood, information and assistance program specialist at the Carroll County Bureau of Aging and Disabilities, said the department fields calls from senior citizens about local transportation options.

"Giving up the keys doesn't mean that they lose all of their independence," she said, "but it does make you lose some of it, and it is a very difficult thing for some people when they get old."

The Carroll Area Transit System, Blue Blazes and Carroll Cab are three local options to getting around the county.

The decision to stop driving doesn't have to do with public transportation, Wood said. The important factor in deciding to stop is the individual's safety and the safety of other drivers, she said.

"It's not an easy decision," she said. "It is very difficult, but it's a decision that sometimes has to be made."

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