Study: older drivers today are safer, healthier

Older drivers today are less likely to be injured or killed in car crashes than in the past, according to a new study.
   The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that’s because today’s cars are safer, and seniors are healthier and less fragile, a shift dating to the mid-1990s.
   “This should help ease fears that aging baby boomers are a safety threat,” said Anne McCartt of IIHS. “Even crashes among the oldest drivers have been on a downswing.”
   In the early 2000s, IIHS was among safety advocates that saw danger in having so many people 65 and older driving. But that concern proved to be unfounded based on 2006 and 2008 fatal-crash data.
   This finding is significant, given the “graying” of the U.S. population. The number of adults age 70+ rose 19% from 1997 to 2012, and by 2050 that segment will make up 16% of the population, compared with 9% in 2012.
   Read the full story in the IIHS Status Report.

Fitterer means winner: The photo grabbed my eye – is that John Keister of “Almost Live” and “The 206” television fame?
   No. The news story said the man pictured is Washington state’s second-winningest basketball coach of all time, newly retired with 728 wins and just 232 losses since 1977.
   His name is Pat Fitterer, and before coaching at Ellensburg High he won big in previous stops at Highland, Kentwood, Sehome, and Eisenhower high schools.
   Fitterer’s players will long remember his upbeat outlook, fun approach, and love of family. See his photo and read the Yakima Herald-Republic story.

Setting the record straight: Olympics hockey hero T.J Oshie, 27, is being claimed as a native son by several U.S. towns, including Everett. So what’s the real deal?
   The Everett Herald reports that Oshie was born in Mount Vernon and lived in Everett from infancy through eighth grade, when he graduated from Evergreen Middle School. He attended ninth grade at Stanwood High before moving with his dad to Warroad, Minn.
   After Oshie beat the Russian hockey team Feb. 15 by scoring four shootout goals, every community he’s lived in has claimed him as theirs. Besides Mount Vernon and Everett that includes Warroad; Grand Forks, N.D. (where Oshie attended college); and St. Louis (where he plays for the NHL Blues).

Snowpack recovering: Skiers and farmers found delight in the recent snowfall that pounded the Cascades. Washington’s snowpack was only 50% of normal on Jan. 31, but it’s now surged to about 80%.
   Oregon’s snowpack was one-third of normal in mid-January, but by Feb. 17 it had recovered to 61%.
   Check out this photo, courtesy of the News Tribune, showing Mt. Rainier’s Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise buried up to the second floor.

Texters cheat the law: The latest PEMCO Poll reveals that 11% of Northwest drivers admit they text behind the wheel, and 14% admit they drive while using a hand-held phone.
   Both practices are illegal in Washington and Oregon.
   Perhaps more alarming, 9% of all drivers (and 24% of those who text regularly) hold their phone below the window or on their lap so other drivers can't see them texting. That's particularly dangerous because it draws drivers' eyes entirely off the road, boosting risk of a rear-end collision.
   Check out the full results in our news release, and take an informal version of the PEMCO Poll to see how your own answers stack up with other Northwest drivers.

by  Jon Osterberg

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