March 4, 2015

Winter weather provides harsh test for elderly drivers

JackknifedNebraska’s population is among the nation’s oldest and some motorists continue to drive on the state’s roads well into their 90s, which for some, may pose a risk to themselves and others.

Nick Jarmusz, at AAA, says family members need to be direct with their elders when safety is clearly becoming an issue.

“It’s important for families to remember that the issue isn’t necessarily driving itself,” Jarmusz says. “The issue is about mobility and independence.”

Older drivers themselves can often be the best judges of when it’s time to give up the keys, knowing their personal challenges with vision, hearing, mobility, reaction times and more.

“Self-assessment is a critical part to this,” Jarmusz says. “We actually have a lot of resources on the topic for senior drivers at a website we’ve set up. The site,, includes suggestions for having that difficult talk with an older driver.

“We recommend families avoid the intervention-style or anything that can come across as overly confrontational and make elderly relatives feel like they’re being backed into a corner or being talked down to,” he says.

While the conversation may be uncomfortable, it should be driven by compassion and a concern for everyone’s health and safety.

“It doesn’t have to be a binary discussion, you know, you either have your keys and are driving or you’re not,” Jarmusz says. “There’s a lot of space in between there to self-regulate or to set up parameters for when it is and is not acceptable to drive.”

A national AAA survey found nearly 90% of motorists who are 65 years old and older suffer from health issues that may affect driving safely.

A U.S. Census Bureau report says nearly 14% of Nebraska’s population is at least 65 years old, ranking the state 11th oldest in the nation. Florida tops the list.


Icy conditions likely cause of deadly crash in Omaha

Authorities released the name of the man killed this morning in a one vehicle accident near 186th and State Street near Bennington in Omaha.

Investigators with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department say 44-year-old Patrick Dubas was behind the wheel of a Chevy Trailblazer and heading westbound when he slid off the road and struck a tree.  Dubas was pronounced dead at the scene.

Overnight freezing rain coated streets and roads in parts of eastern Nebraska Tuesday morning.  Investigators say that likely caused or contributed to the crash.

Hospitals and emergency rooms in Omaha have been busy treating fall victims today.  One health care system reported treating 59 patients by 11:00 am.   The injuries ranged from broken wrists, sprains and head injuries.

Crash near Cozad claims three lives, injures five

Police car lightsA two-vehicle crash near Cozad last night killed three people and injured five.

The Nebraska State Patrol says the driver of a Jeep that was westbound on Interstate 80 lost control, rolled in the median and hit an eastbound car.

The driver of the Jeep was a teenager. He and two of his passengers were killed. They’re identified as: 16-year-old Anthony Hill, 41-year-old Regina Hill and 67-year-old Dennis Alexander, all of Cozad. Two other passengers in the Jeep survived.

Troopers say no one in the Jeep was belted in, while everyone in the car was wearing seat belts.

Those involved in the crash were being treated at both Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney and Lexington Regional Medical Center in Lexington.

The crash happened about 6:30 last night, just east of Cozad near the Dawson County exit.

The westbound lanes of I-80 were closed for about 90 minutes, while the eastbound lanes were closed more than three hours.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.


2 Omaha officers injured in overnight crash

Two Omaha police officers were injured around 1:00 Monday morning when their cruiser was hit by another vehicle. Omaha Police Department spokesman Officer Michael Pecha says one suffered a hand injury that required treatment. The other officer suffered back and neck pain but refused treatment.

Police cited the driver of the other car, identified as Neri Arrevalo, for driving under the influence. He was not injured. 

Officer Pecha says both vehicles sustained substantial damage.

Elderly pedestrian is hit, killed on I-80

Crime Scene TapeA Cairo woman was struck and killed by a semi-truck after authorities say she walked onto Interstate 80 in Buffalo County late Sunday afternoon.

According to the Nebraska State Patrol, 79-year-old Darlene Harder had parked along the eastbound lanes near Gibbon when she got out of her vehicle and then walked into traffic.

A short time later, she was struck by a semi trailer-truck driven by 41-year-old Voadimir Bezrukavyy of Colorado.

The on and off ramps at mile marker 285 were closed were closed briefly because of the accident with eastbound traffic being temporarily reduced to one lane.

Officials say the accident, in turn, helped contribute to another accident in the same area involving two semi trucks. That accident is currently being investigated by the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office.

By Brent Wiethorn, KKPR, Kearney