It's said that old age creeps up suddenly, and if you haven't planned for it, life can get complicated in a hurry. For example, have you thought about what you will do when you are too old to drive?

Apparently not many of us have. Florida, which has one of the highest percentages of 65-plus residents in the U.S., recently posed that question and found that 13 percent of survey respondents indicated they would not stop driving at all, with three percent expressing the opinion that they would die before they would stop driving.

Not a comforting fact for everyone else on Florida's roads, perhaps. Researchers at Florida State University and the Florida Department of Transportation developed the survey to determine what states should be doing to help older drivers and assist them in the transition to their post-driving days. They're obtained a grant to set up to create a statewide Aging Road User Strategic Safety Plan.

A national model for older drivers

“The bottom-line measure of success for the grant from the DOT is that we reduce the number of fatalities, injuries and crashes that involve older adults in Florida,” said John Reynolds, a professor at Florida State. “However, in doing so we’ll be making the roads safer for all Floridians and hopefully serving as a national model for other states.”

The researchers surveyed a large number of Floridians, divided into two groups, those aged 50 to 64 and those age 65 and up. They found that most drivers don’t plan for a future day when they may be unable to drive safely. Eighty-three percent of survey respondents ages 65 and older, and 92 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds, reported that they have no “transportation retirement plan.”

No alternatives to driving

Many aging road users see no alternatives to driving in their communities, the study found. "When asked about ways they get around besides driving a car, 40 percent of respondents ages 65 and older replied that they ride with family or friends, 26 percent said they walk, and 15 percent said there was no other way to get around other than driving.

The survey found that while Florida's older drivers feel comfortable with their abilities behind the wheel, they're not so sure about everyone else on the road.

“Though many aging drivers in Florida view our roads as very or somewhat safe, we found a lot of concern about the other drivers who are on them,” Reynolds said. “People responding to the survey voiced frustration, and sometimes anger, at other drivers who are talking on their phones, texting, or are otherwise being careless while they drive. This concern is being heard all around the country.”

Residents ages 65 and older make up almost 18 percent of the Florida's population, and the Census Bureau projects that number to grow to 27 percent over the next two decades. In 2008, 447 older adults were killed in automobile crashes on Florida roads, making up about 15 percent of all crash fatalities in the state.

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