Senior Driving

Vienna Newsletter

Health Officer Column

August, 2012

Senior Driving

Nearly everybody over 45 has probably worried about a elderly parent or other loved one’s safety when driving. Crashes caused by older drivers are a significant public health issue, especially in Maine with its oldest median age of all the states, and its predominantly rural environment that lacks much public transportation. In those rural areas, like Vienna, nearly 20% of the population is already over 65, which the rest of the country is not predicted to achieve until 2030. So seniors who live here must have a car and be able to drive to get most things done they need to do, from shopping, to medical care, to entertainment, despite recent local improvements in those and other services. And we hear reports of crashes involving elderly drivers constantly in the news recently. So what are the issues and what can be done to diminish the risks without isolating our seniors?

Cell phone, cell towers and other Electromagnetic waves in our lives

Cell phone, cell towers and other Electromagnetic waves in our lives

What are the risks of living next to a new cell tower, or of using your cell phone a lot? Many in the area are asking these questions as new cell towers go up. In response to questions like these from Bob Weingarten, Marti Gross and others, let me give a mini lesson on what is and isn’t known about the interactions between electromagnetic waves and our body’s physiology, and how you might measure your exposure if you wish. And I’ll close with a bit about radon, the greatest radiation risk in our lives and homes.  But first I must review a little physics with you.

Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving

Let’s face it; we are all distracted drivers some of the time. I tie my tie or floss my teeth sometimes when I’m driving to work and I’ve seen others even reading newspapers! But the explosion in cell phone use has markedly increased the frequency and consequences of distracted driving. Studies show that a driver simply talking on a cell phone has a 4-6 times risk of having a crash as the same person talking, and is at the same risk as one driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 g/dL. Texting while driving is 5 times worse; people texting when driving are 25 times as likely to crash. Studies show that while texting, drivers have their eyes off the road 4.6 of every 6 seconds! Not surprisingly national data from 5 years ago showed 2000 fatalities annually associated with texting, 16% of the total auto crash deaths.  But since many more people use cell phones than text, more die from simply using their cell phones. Hands-free cell phones may not reduce the risks much.

How to break a smoking addiction

How to break a smoking addiction

Everybody knows that smoking is bad in all kinds of ways, but most smokers have found that it is extremely hard to stop! That’s because one’s body becomes both habituated and usually addicted to smoking and the nicotine it delivers. And smoking has become financially very expensive as well. In this article, I want to offer suggestions, based on decades of trying to help 100s if not 1000s of smokers, about what strategies seem to help people kick the habit.

Lyme Disease and Tick Bites

Lyme Disease and Tick Bites

5/1/13

It is spring and the flowers, black flies and ticks are blooming! Flowers and black flies rarely cause significant health problems, but deer ticks can. They can transmit Lyme disease by transmitting Lyme bacteria when they attach to their victim. They can also transmit the rarer diseases called ehrlichiosis, babesiosis and, even more rarely, tularemia and Lyme variants, recently reported to cause a dementing illness especially in the elderly. Our region used to be on the edge of the deer tick/Lyme disease infestation area, which was the southern New England states and southern Maine. But with long term warming and less winter kill of ticks, the population has increased substantially so that it is now much more common to see tick bites and consequently increased Lyme disease incidence.

How To Break A Smoking Addiction And Live Longer

How To Break A Smoking Addiction And Live Longer

Last month I promised to write about how individuals and families can make their habits healthier, starting with one of the hardest but most important of all, stopping smoking. Everybody knows that smoking is expensive and bad in all kinds of ways, but most smokers find it extremely hard to stop! That’s because one’s body becomes both habituated and usually addicted to smoking and the nicotine it delivers. I base the following suggestions on decades of trying to help 1000s of smokers kick the habit.

Marijuana Legalization And Use: What We Know and Do Not Know

Marijuana Legalization And Use: What We Know and Do Not Know

Laws and norms about marijuana are shifting rapidly. Starting with medical use legalization several years ago, laws have now been passed or are being considered in many states, including Maine, to decriminalize possession and use. Will that be a good thing for the public health of Vienna and Mt. Vernon?

“Bee” Stings

“Bee” Stings

Dan Onion MD, MPH

Mt. Vernon/Vienna Health Officer

293-2076, dkonion@gmail.com

7/9/14

Not all “bee stings” are from real bees. Here in Maine, probably more stings are by yellow jackets, which are actually a type of ground-dwelling wasp and the most aggressive of local stinging insects. Since summer and fall are when most stings happen, I’ll review for you how to avoid, evaluate, and treat stings when they happen to you or a family member.  

Three-Community Transportation Project

 

Three-Community Transportation Project

Dan Onion, MD, MPH

Mt. Vernon/Vienna Health Officer

293-2076; dkonion@gmail.com

Last year I wrote about the issues around senior driving and what can be done to diminish crash risks without isolating our seniors. As a result of those and other conversations in town, the Mt. Vernon Community Partnership has undertaken a project to create a volunteer transportation system in Mt Vernon along with Vienna and Fayette. Several town forums have been held in November to solicit ideas of how this might be done and how it might work. We encourage all seniors who can to “age in place”, rather than move away to family or assisted living even if they can no longer safely drive. Younger citizens without cars or driver’s licenses, could also be served by the system being planned.

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