The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Tallahassee, Fla, recently awarded a grant to the Tallahassee-based Florida State University’s Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy in order to establish and implement a statewide Aging Road User Strategic Safety Plan. John Reynolds, PhD, (pictured right) Eagles professor of sociology at Florida State, is the director of the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy. Reynolds indicates that the statewide coalition yields from recent findings, which suggest that older drivers are at a disproportionate risk for being involved in a fatal vehicular crashing.

“The bottom-line measure of success for the grant from the DOT is that we reduce the number of fatalities, injuries, and crashes that involve older adults in Florida,” Reynolds says. Reynolds also articulates the hope that the implementation of the grant may serve as a national model for other states.

According to Reynolds, to establish a baseline for the development of the coalition and safety plan, responses of more than 900 Floridians who participated in the 2011 Florida Aging Road User Survey were analyzed. Survey participants reportedly ranged from aged 50 years to aged 65 years and older. 

The survey’s findings reveal that 83% of participants aged 65 years and older, and 92% of individuals aged 50 years to aged 64 years reported they have no “transportation retirement plan.” A reported 23% percent of participants indicated that they would rely on family, friends, or neighbors. Researchers say 36% did not know or had not thought about how they might transition from driving in the future. Rounding out the stats, 13% of participants said they would not stop driving at all, with some reportedly saying they would die before they needed to stop driving. Only 4% indicated that they planned to use a community driver program or para-transit service.

“Though many aging drivers in Florida view our roads as very or somewhat safe, we found a lot of concern about the other drivers who are on them,” Reynolds says. 

Working with Gaily Holley of the FDOT, the Pepper Institute supports activities of the Safe Mobility for Life Coalition, comprised of 28 organizations and agencies located statewide. The coalition is designed to improve safety, mobility, and access for Florida’s aging road users. 

Reynolds adds that, “There are so many groups and agencies throughout the state that are committed to making our roads and communities safer for older adults. The coalition brings these groups together to work as a team on the objectives and goals identified in the strategic safety plan.”

According to the Bethesda, Md-based American Occupational Therapy Association, December 5, 2011 through December 9, 2011 will be nationally recognized as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week.

Source: Florida State University