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Danger: Gray ahead. Baby Boomers retiring, driving.

Right in between the Greatest and the X lies the Boom. The largest generation in American history -- the Baby Boomers -- is starting to retire. That upward shift in American demographics is going to present some challenges to motorists, as a gray wave of Baby Boomers continues to drives it vehicles across Wisconsin and the rest of the nation.

Experts say there's an unavoidable, gradual diminishment of eyesight, hearing and reflexes that affects all people as they age. That lessening of the senses can make it more likely for older drivers to be in car accidents that result in injuries and deaths.

Today, people over 65 account for 13 percent of all Americans. But over the next 15 years, that figure is going to grow by a whopping 60 percent. By that time, at least one out of five Americans will be 65 or older.

Though many states require older drivers to be tested more frequently for renewals of driver's licenses, Wisconsin has no such provisions. Some states also require vision tests for older drivers; Wisconsin is not among those states.

But older drivers can have those check-ups done on their own, of course. Auto club AAA encourages older drivers to get their eyesight, hearing and reflexes tested, and to take driver skills refresher courses in order to keep those senses and skills as sharp as possible.

The organization also has some tips for older drivers to keep them safe, and help keep everyone else safe, too:

Avoid distractions: Turn off cell phones and don't mess with other electronic gadgets, such as GPS, while you're driving. If you need to make a call, send a text or check for directions, pull your vehicle over and do it safely.

Drive defensively: Leave plenty of room between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. That way you can be sure to bring your vehicle to a quick, safe stop if needed.

Limits: As eyesight fades, begin to limit your driving to daylight hours when traffic signs and signals are more easily spotted, and pedestrians and other vehicles aren't obscured by darkness.

Source: AAA: "Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile," Feb. 2012

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