A new study by TRIP, a nonprofit transportation research group, suggests that Florida is the most dangerous U.S. state for senior drivers. The study is entitled “Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile” and is based on 2010 data. It found that 503 car accidents involved at least one driver aged 65 or older and that in those crashes, 271 of the senior drivers (nearly 54% of those involved in traffic accidents) were killed.
The data is particularly disturbing given the rising age of drivers, particularly in Florida. Currently around 20% of Florida drivers are 65 years of age or older, and Florida officials believe that 25% of Florida drivers will be senior citizens by 2030. The study notes that the Baby Boomer class, comprised of persons born between 1946 and 1964, will begin turning 65 in 2011 and that as the rest of the group follows over the next 15 years, the senior citizen population is expected to balloon by 60%.
Advocates concerned by the trend are speaking out about the need for preventative measures such as senior-friendly roads and traffic signs, alternative transportation options, safer vehicles and improved licensing screening. One group called Floridians for Better Transportation, comprised of engineers, road builders and businesses, has already voiced concerns about the situation. Matthew Ubben, the president of the organization, told the press that if data patterns continue, 2.5 million new residents over 60 years old will flock to Florida by 2030. “A lot of them will be retirees new to Florida, people who are used to driving in a different [state],” he explained.
Floridians for Better Transportation is attempting to recover $417 million that was diverted to the state’s general fund and return it to the transportation trust fund. The money is from title and license tag sales, and the organization argues that the transportation department desperately needs the funds to better accommodate drivers, including senior citizens.
The “Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile” study suggested that Florida is not currently providing senior citizens with an optimal driving environment. The data shows that California, which is home to 3.1 million senior citizen drivers, had 107 fever traffic accidents involving a person 65 years of age or older in 2010 than Florida did. California also had 52 fewer senior citizen driver deaths due to car accidents in 2010 than Florida. This is despite the fact that Florida is home to around 2.6 persons aged 65 or older – a half million less than California.
Experts have yet to offer an explanation for this discrepancy, although some have theorized that Floridian senior citizens may drive more than their Californian counterparts. One expert, Orlando senior transportation consultant Fran Carlin-Rogers, says that California has invested significant funds in creating a tiered licensing system for senior citizen driver and making highway modifications. She did say that she wasn’t positive that these measures could explain the data.
The TRIP study suggests that all states take preventative measures to accommodate the impending senior citizen driver boom. The modifications they suggest include creating clearer signs with large letters and overheard turn lane and street signs, good street lighting and clear, thick road markings, rumble strips, and other precautions.