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New state website offers resources for aging drivers

December 11, 2015

The first Baby Boomers started turning age 65 in 2011, and by 2030 all living Baby Boomers will be older adults. Like people of all ages, older adults consider mobility essential to conducting the activities of daily life, staying socially connected with their world, participating in activities that make life enjoyable, and increasing quality of life.

Michigan Secretary of State records show that more than 1.3 million residents over the age of 65 have a driver’s license. Helping maintain lifelong safe mobility is everyone's responsibility, including aging adults, families and friends, and professionals who interact with aging adults. Now these groups have a new resource to help keep Michigan's older adults safely mobile for as long as possible: The Safe Drivers Smart Options: Keys to Lifelong Mobility website.

The website, which is part of an overall statewide strategy, was officially launched by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson on December 7 during Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. The website provides valuable information and resources about driving, mobility, and aging that are specific for aging drivers, their families, and professionals who work with them.

“I’m very excited that we now have a comprehensive, easy-to-navigate resource that provides opportunities for driver self-assessment, educational information to keep people driving for as long as possible, and resources to guide drivers, families and professionals through the driving retirement process when necessary,” said Paula Kartje, Occupational Therapy Supervisor at the U-M Drive-Ability program.

For the past two years, UMTRI’s Behavioral Sciences Group has been working with various state agencies to help develop and launch the Safe Drivers Smart Options website and strategy. Over the next year they will evaluate the strategy.

"Older adults, like the rest of us, prefer to get around by driving. However, because of age-related medical conditions and the medications used to treat these conditions, older adults are more likely to experience declines in safe driving abilities. The website and strategy are designed to not only to help Michigan's older adults continue to drive safely but to also help ease the transition to stopping driving when necessary," said Dr. David W. Eby, UMTRI research professor.

A Statewide Strategy
The Safe Drivers Smart Options website reflects a statewide strategy to address the mobility needs of Michigan’s aging population. The goal is to make sure drivers, their families and professionals have the tools needed to keep aging individuals safe and mobile, whether that’s behind the wheel of a car or using other community transportation options. The resources provided through the website will help: 

  • Aging drivers in assessing their driving skills, finding classes and training specifically for mature drivers, identifying issues that may adversely affect their driving ability, developing strategies that allow them to continue driving safely, and understanding what to do when the time comes to stop driving.
  • Families and friends talk with aging drivers about their driving and any problems that are evident, provide resources for families to assist aging drivers in retiring from driving and in finding alternate sources of transportation.
  • Connect healthcare professionals, law enforcement personnel, and other professional caregivers that work with older adults to resources to better evaluate the needs and concerns of aging drivers, identify physical and mental health issues that impede driving and develop coping strategies to enhance mobility safely.

"A major strength of the website is that it brings together information and resources that research shows are effective in supporting the needs of an aging population," said Dr. Lisa J. Molnar, UMTRI associate research scientist.

Creation of the website and strategy was a joint effort involving UMTRI, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Secretary of State, and Michigan State Police, along with the expertise of numerous other state and private sector organizations that provided resources.

“When MDOT initiated the idea for an older driver safety strategy in 2013, we knew it had to be a joint effort with a variety of partners,” said David Wresinski, Transportation Planning Bureau director for the Michigan Department of Transportation. “These include healthcare, social services, and public safety officials. It’s a great example of government and non-governmental organizations working together.”

Twenty-one partner organizations were involved in the development of the strategy and a list can be found on the website.

Related links
 Michigan Secretary of State news release  
Safe Drivers Smart Options: Keys to Lifelong Mobility 
UMTRI Behavioral Sciences Group  
Older Driver Safety Awareness Week: December 7-11, 2015