Wisconsin’s roads are deadly for seniors—we need a new transportation approach

Our state’s transportation priorities continue to fail vulnerable citizens. A new report by a national research group has found that Wisconsin is the deadliest state in the nation for older drivers. More than one in four fatal crashes in 2016 involved someone over 65. With Wisconsin fast becoming one of the oldest states in the country, this problem is only going to get worse unless urgent steps are taken to address it.

A senior being forced to walk on the road due to a lack of sidewalk

The state’s overwhelming focus on highway infrastructure and car-centric land use patterns has resulted in seniors struggling to maintain their quality of life. Routine trips for healthcare, shopping and socializing are now dangerous due to high speed traffic, poor pedestrian infrastructure and a lack of alternative transportation modes.

The solution here is not finding ways for seniors to keep driving as they grow older—instead we should be focusing on finding ways to reduce car trip numbers, and making the entire transportation system safer.

Seniors need to be prioritized in transportation design—we must invest in reliable public transportation that connects people to all the destinations that are important to living a healthy and vibrant life. Sidewalks must be interconnected and free from bumps and cracks. Car traffic must be slowed in our communities by narrower driving lanes, pedestrian bump-outs and highly visible crosswalks. Cities must reform their zoning codes and ordinances to encourage mix-used development that fosters a diversity of land uses, and brings affordable housing close to transit.

It is time that our transportation system gives seniors the tools to maintain an active and fulfilling lifestyle.