AAA, SAFE Delaware, Delaware Area Transit Agency (DATA), law enforcement and SourcePoint all teamed up Thursday afternoon to host a Mature Driver Workshop which featured discussions, seminars, and hands on activities about driving as an older adult.
Kimberly Schwind, senior manager of public affairs for AAA Ohio, said they have been putting on events like this for several years and said one of AAA’s goals is to “help seniors drive safer and longer.”
“Seniors age 65 and older make up the fastest growing age group in the United States, with 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day,” Schwind reported. “Eighty-six percent of these seniors still drive.”
Schwind said the safety of senior drivers remains a major concern on area roads as the number of Delaware County crashes involving drivers age 65 and older has risen each of the past five years, according to Ohio Department of Public Safety crash statistics.
“Last year, 680 seniors were involved in crashes in Delaware County alone,” Schwind said. “While today’s seniors are more mobile than ever, many are outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of 7-10 years. Giving up the keys is associated with an increased risk of health problems, according to a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and Columbia University study.”
Schwind said the workshop focused on resources and information to help mature drivers make good decisions about driving and their safety.
The workshops included a presentation by DATA about how its services work and attendees could tour inside a bus; a question-and-answer session with Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Scott Davis; a presentation by an occupational therapist about new driving technologies and the Grady Drive Program, which aims to keep seniors mobile; and a presentation by AAA about tools that mature drivers can use to ensure they are as safe as possible on the roadway.
Jackie Bain, a community health specialist with the Delaware General Health District and SAFE Delaware County Coalition coordinator, said the event was not about taking the keys from mature drivers.
“It’s about making mature adult drivers feel confident with how to evaluate their driving ability,” Bain said.
Bain added in many cases, things that make it difficult for mature drivers to physically operate their vehicles can be alleviated with knowledge or tools, and she said the workshop is teaching mature drivers about how to self-regulate.
“We don’t want to take keys away,” Bain said. “We want to keep mature drivers driving. This is a positive message. It can be a hard adjustment, and this is a very relaxed environment to ask experts.”
The event concluded with a free CarFit inspection, which Schwind said gives a quick, yet comprehensive check on how well an older driver and their vehicle work together.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.