Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, MDOT and other officials unveil resources to help aging drivers

DECEMBER 7, 2015 Aging Driver

Residents 65 and older comprise the fastest growing
segment of the state’s population

LANSING – If you are concerned about an aging loved one’s driving habits or what will happen when it’s time to give up the keys, finding help can be challenging.

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and a coalition of stakeholders are providing some much-needed answers through a new state resource for aging drivers, their families and the professionals that work with them. The Safe Drivers Smart Options: Keys to Lifelong Mobility website was officially launched today to provide information about driving, mobility and aging.

“In our car-centric world, seniors don’t want to lose their independence,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to help aging drivers develop strategies that will keep them driving for as long as it is safe to do so. The website also provides options and resources that can ease the transition when the time comes for an aging loved one to give up the car keys.”

Johnson timed the announcement, which was held at the Michigan Library and Historical Center Forum, to coincide with the start of Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. Joining her was Michigan State Police Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue; David Wresinski, Transportation Planning Bureau director for the Michigan Department of Transportation; and Paula Kartje, a licensed occupational therapist and driver rehabilitation specialist.

The Safe Drivers Smart Options website at www.michigan.gov/agingdriver is 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 on public transportation. Some of the many 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.

“Ensuring the safety of the motoring public is a priority for law enforcement,” stated Etue. “The materials available on the Safe Drivers Smart Options website put important safety information and resources readily available at the click of a mouse to anyone seeking specific assistance and guidance when dealing with an aging driver.” 

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Michigan Department of Transportation, Secretary of State and Michigan State Police, along with the expertise of numerous other state and private sector organizations, provided the resources for the website.

“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,” Wresinski said. “These include healthcare, social services, and public safety officials. It’s a great example of government and non-governmental organizations working together.”

Partner organizations include AARP Michigan, AAA, Michigan Trauma Coalition, and Michigan Academy of Family Physicians.

Michigan has one of the oldest populations in the country. According to the 2010 census, 14 percent of residents are age 65 or older, and this age group is the fastest growing demographic in the state. Secretary of State records show that for drivers 65 and older, there are currently 1,382,133 Michigan residents with a driver’s license compared to 1,049,582 license holders of the same ages in 2005.

“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,” Kartje said.

“We’re very proud of this latest tool to help motorists stay safe on the road,” Johnson said. “This website takes a challenging and difficult topic and makes it easy to get the answers you and your family need to keep an aging loved one safe and mobile.”

For more information, visit the Safe Drivers Smart Options website at www.michigan.gov/agingdriver.

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