In the private sector, it is a common understanding that if your business can’t change with the times, then it’s probably not going to survive. Any business in today’s fast-moving environment that is looking for the pace of change to slow is likely to be sorely disappointed. In fact, successful businesses actually embrace change. Without change, businesses would likely lose their competitive edge and fail to meet the needs of what most hope to be a growing client base.
To put it mildly, change is not always quite so welcome in the world of government. One only need look at the decades-long debacle surrounding the prioritization and processing of veterans in need of medical attention. Or look at the declining condition of America’s infrastructure, including but certainly not limited to our antiquated power grid (our current system was developed in the late 1800’s), and how our air traffic control system is still relying on forty year old technology. It was Ronald Reagan who said “The scariest words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”
The good news is that there are many examples of local governments from across the country that are proactively serving the communities and constituents they have been elected to represent.
For just a moment, take solace in the following article. It represents a fine example of how a local government, a non-profit organization and a national business have come together as equal partners for the common good, and are helping older drivers remain safe in the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills, Ohio.
In this unique partnership, the Seven Hills Mayor’s Court, University Hospitals Parma Medical Center, and Keeping Us Safe, LLC., have formed an innovative alliance deigned to help older drivers who may be experiencing an age-related decline in driving skills, as demonstrated by an invitation to appear in court for a traffic violation. Following is a very brief synopsis of the role government, a non-profit and the private sector plays in this potentially life-saving initiative:
A For-Profit Business
Founded in 2008 by a retired Ohio State Trooper, Keeping Us Safe, LLC., is a national business headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. They have developed the “Enhanced Self-Assessment Program” for older drivers who may be experiencing a decline in their driving abilities. This three hour in-person session typically takes place in the home of the older driver and is facilitated by any one of Keeping Us Safe’s Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals.
If the individual is a safe driver, he or she is provided with strategies on how to remain a safe driver as they progress through the aging process. If a driving retirement is the appropriate decision, then Keeping Us Safe provides the individual (and their family) with acceptable alternatives, resources and a very specific plan to ensure a smooth and successful transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat.
A Non-Profit Organization
In 2012, the Parma Medical Center (a non-profit medical facility) adopted the “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program into the service offerings of their Center for Healthy Aging, and have enjoyed great success with the program.
Laura Matthews, BS, MS, LNHA, Manager of the Center and one of Keeping Us Safe’s Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professionals says “We’re happy to support families with this program. If we can be that objective person in this discussion with them, it can save lives as well as relationships in a family.” In other words, the self-assessment program is not only designed to reduce the incidence of traffic fatalities involving older drivers, but as well, the program helps to maintain the integrity of the family unit.
A Government Entity
With so many of Seven Hills’ residents over 65 (nearly twice that of the Ohio average), Mayor Richard Dell’Aquila, along with magistrate Eric Moore saw the need to explore the challenges placed on elderly drivers’ families and the community as well as protecting the drivers themselves. They wanted to provide older drivers cited into their court with an alternative, one that would help reduce their likelihood of being cited again in the future.
Under their Older Driver Diversion Program, senior drivers who have been issued a traffic citation and wish to be considered for the Diversion Program will submit an application, pay a $50 application fee, sign a guilty plea and pay $94 court costs. If accepted by their law department, the applicant will have 90 days to complete Keeping Us Safe’s “Beyond Driving with Dignity” program, as administered by University Hospitals Parma Medical Center. After providing the court with proof of completion of the “Enhanced Self-Assessment program”, the applicant’s court costs will be refunded, and the traffic offense dismissed.
So What Does this Mean?
Keeping Us Safe’s self-assessment program for older drivers (a private-sector business), as administered by University Hospitals Parma Medical Center (a non-profit organization), now serves as the Senior Driver Diversion program for the Seven Hills Mayor’s Court (a government entity).
Matt Gurwell, a retired Ohio State Trooper and founder of Keeping Us Safe, says “It is extremely rewarding to be partnering with a non-profit organization and city government to bring a peaceful resolve to older drivers with diminishing cognitive and/or physical skills. In classic fashion, Mayor Dell’Aquila and Magistrate Eric Moore have demonstrated how thinking outside-the-box and approaching an old problem from a new perspective and in doing so, they have demonstrated their sincere desire to providing a high level of service to the residents of Seven Hills.
Although the business structures, missions and methods of operation for the Seven Hills Court, the UH-Parma Medical Center and for Keeping Us Safe are all completely different from each other, we have been united by a common goal; to provide a superior level of service to those whom we serve.
Local government, a non-profit organization and a private business have formed a meaningful partnership that is designed to be of value not only to older traffic offenders, but also to their families and to the motoring public in general. Implementation of this program is sure to make the community of Seven Hills a safer place to live, work and recreate, all at no additional expense to taxpayers.
Points of Interest:
- Generally speaking, defendants in American courts pay for their diversion with a fee to the court, counseling, or both. It is not uncommon for the final cost to be more than the actual fine.
- According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, over the past five years, Cuyahoga County has lead the state in older adults (65+) being killed in automobile accidents.
- Seven Hills Court’s “Older Diver Diversion Program” is not available to individuals that were involved in an injury accident, have had a moving violation within the past twelve months, or were operating a commercial vehicle at the time of their offense. The program is completely voluntary.
- The “Enhanced Self-Assessment Program” for older drivers is designed to help older drivers that may be experiencing a diminishment in driving skills, make a smooth transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat with minimal deterioration to their dignity or independence.
- In any well-structured court diversion program, courts may require that the defendant formally admit guilt, but suspend punishment until the defendant has had the opportunity to complete diversion, in this case, the “Enhanced Self-Assessment Program” (the plea isn’t formally entered into the court system so it can be erased upon successful completion of the program). Diversion programs such as this one emphasize counseling, treatment, and behavior modification over punitive measures.
- Keeping Us Safe, the City of Seven Hills and University Hospitals Parma Medical Center recently held a luncheon to honor five older drivers that recently made a quiet and non-newsworthy retirement from driving. They were recognized as “the quiet heroes amongst us” for making the difficult decision to give up driving before tragedy ever had the opportunity to strike.
- Lisa Profio, LPN, is a Certified “Beyond Driving with Dignity” Professional working at University Hospitals Parma Medical Center in tandem with Laura Matthews. Lisa was selected as the recipient of Keeping Us Safe’s 2014 “Bill and Betty Fresch Outstanding Achievement Award” for recognition of her professional experience, compassion and empathy in helping older drivers with diminished driving skills make a smooth transition into a driving retirement.
For more information on Keeping Us Safe’s “Older Driver Diversion Program”, please visit their website at www.keepingussafe.org, or call toll-free 877-907-8841.
About the Author:
After retiring from a very successful 24-year career with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Matt Gurwell quickly recognized that he was still filled with a desire for improving highway safety and more specifically, a passion to help keep older drivers, safe drivers.
As a result, Matt founded Keeping Us Safe, a national organization with a mission to help keep older drivers safe. He has developed programs that provide senior drivers and their families with direction in helping to ensure one’s smooth transition from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat.
Since leaving the Patrol, Matt has participated in a tremendous amount of work in the area of older driver research, best practices, current vehicle safety technologies, and adaptive equipment.
After consulting with professionals from several different disciplines, Matt took this new knowledge and blended it with his years of experience investigating accidents and dealing with people (in sometimes less than comfortable settings!), and developed the “Enhanced Self-Assessment Program” for senior drivers. Matt’s creative, innovative and common sense approach, combined with his uncanny ability to bring calm and resolve to stressful situations without ever jeopardizing the dignity of others, has contributed greatly to the success of Keeping Us Safe’s programs.
When asked what the turning point was for starting Keeping Us Safe, Matt explains:
“There was never one particular event. It was the result of 20-plus years of holding dying people in my arms at terrible car accidents, and delivering dozens and dozens of death notifications to families. I would much rather work with families bringing a peaceful resolve to this sensitive and uncomfortable issue now, rather than have them deal with it when an Ohio State Trooper is knocking on their front door”.
Matt also explains that “At Keeping Us Safe, we are not in the ‘older driver’ business. We are in the business of saving lives and helping family members maintain their relationships with an aging parent through a very difficult time of transition.”