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Traffic Engineering and Operations Office


Safety is Golden
Vision
Provide leadership and serve as a catalyst in becoming the national leader in senior mobility.
Mission
Improve the safety, access, and mobility of Florida's growing aging population.


As we age, we experience a steady decline in certain skills that are very important for safe driving. Although not everyone ages at the same rate, beginning around age 55, we begin a gradual decrease in our ability to process information, remember, and make judgments in traffic situations. A good example is determining the distance and approach time of oncoming traffic.

Visual declines represent the most significant losses. We need more light to distinguish features along the roadway and must be closer to read signs and follow other traffic cues. Older eyes also need more time to recover from the glare of bright headlights at night. And these visual losses begin very early in life - around age 20. Medical studies have shown that the average 60-year old requires eight times more light than the average 20-year old, which explains why mature drivers have particular difficulty driving at night.

Sometimes the driving abilities of mature drivers are impacted by the medication they are required to take and reaction times for mature drivers may be up to 30 percent longer than younger drivers.

While mature drivers are involved in fewer total crashes than other age groups, there are more crashes compared to the number of miles driven. This also applies to injuries, where the number of injuries is less, but the severity is dramatically higher. Mature drivers are less likely to survive a serious crash than younger drivers. This phenomenon is largely due to the increased frailty that accompanies the aging process. Drivers 70 and older are more than twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as middle aged drivers.

The FDOT in our State Traffic Engineering and Operations Office, first began a program focused on mature drivers and pedestrians in 1991. The primary emphasis was to make roadway improvements, based on the FHWA's Highway Design Handbook For Older Drivers and Pedestrians that compensates for the natural effects of aging that apply to driving - especially visual and decision making. These improvements or countermeasures provided better guidance along roadways, more legible signs and increased advance warning of upcoming traffic and roadway conditions. View the Roadway Improvements Web site to view all the countermeasures we have implemented since the program began.

The FDOT began implementing these improvements immediately through routine maintenance activities and the work was completed within two years of implementation. Florida also participated in two focus groups for the Transportation Research Board's (TRB) "Transportation in an Aging Society" research report. Participation in the focus groups resulted in the development of the Florida At-Risk Driving Council, a consortium of individuals, established by Section 322.181, F.S., brought together to address issues affecting Florida's aging driving population. The Council published their recommendations in a report titled "The Effects of Aging on Driving Ability" in 2004.

Today, through the implementation of our Safe Mobility for Life Program (Policy No. 000-750-001), we are working to improve the safety, access, and mobility of Florida's aging population. While these improvements are tailored to meet the needs of mature drivers, an added benefit is that it will help provide a safer roadway system for drivers of any age.

For additional information on this program, contact Gail Holley at gail.holley@dot.state.fl.us