ITE Journal March 2018 - 28

28

Ma rch 2018

i te j o urn al

Ohio Department of Transportation

The State of Ohio has been paying close attention to these
demographic projections as the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) also began recognizing an increase in fatal and
serious injury crashes involving older drivers. Last year, approximately 23 percent of all traffic deaths in Ohio involved a driver
over the age of 65. A decade ago, the percentage was 16 percent. The
Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University estimates that the
population over 60 years of age will represent more than 28 percent
of the Ohio statewide population by 2030, exceeding the national
average of 25 percent.2 Moreover, older populations in Ohio are
concentrated in some counties with some projected to exceed 50
percent by 2030.
This information, coupled with data showing per capita crash
rates are higher in rural counties and older driver crashes have
a higher rate of serious injuries and fatalities, became a call to
action for ODOT to implement new strategies to address safety and
mobility for Ohio's aging population. Michelle May, the program
manager of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT)
Highway Safety Program, explains that in 2016 ODOT and its
safety partners launched an action team to examine the issue and
make recommendations on how they could reduce traffic crashes
involving older drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. Recognizing the
need to analyze the problem and incorporate different perspectives for a truly multidisciplinary approach, the Statewide Action
Team included representation from key organizations, such as the
Ohio Department of Aging, Ohio Department of Health, AARP,
AAA, the Highway Patrol, and local transportation planning and
transit agencies.
May explained that occupational therapists are our leading
experts on aging, and the team needed to engage them in order to
help determine designs that could help protect the aging driving
population. As a result, May brought in Elin Schold Davis, a senior
mobility expert who is a licensed occupational therapist and
certified driving rehabilitation specialist, as a national expert to
help inform the team's process to develop a better action plan.
Davis has led the American Occupational Therapy Association's (AOTA) Older Driver Initiative since 2003, which receives
contracted funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA). Generally, occupational therapists and
occupational therapy assistants work with clients across the lifespan
to participate in the things they want and need to do despite
physical and cognitive challenges. With older adults, for example,
an occupational therapy practitioner might work on dressing,
bathing, and cooking skills. While all occupational therapy
practitioners can address driving, occupational therapists certified
in driving can evaluate driving ability and make suggestions to
improve safety and comfortability. While the initiative was initially
focused on driving evaluation, Davis described how the messaging
has evolved to a much broader social opportunity to address older

Elin Schold Davis, a senior mobility expert and a licensed occupational
therapist and certified driving rehabilitation specialist, presenting on
supporting Ohio's aging drivers during a Toward Zero Deaths Safety
Network meeting in Ohio.
driver safety through planning, education, and testing as indicated.
She has participated in various state efforts to address senior
mobility issues. The goal, she explains, is to help our communities
accommodate an aging population. Davis explained that while she
also has the privilege of working with other states on this issue,
Ohio is one of the most proactive states in addressing the "opportunities" associated with an aging driving population.
Ohio has embraced a multidisciplinary approach to forming
its safety plan. In examining the safety needs of a large, aging
population, the team needed to better understand how older adults
affect traffic safety, with the goal of forming recommendations to
reduce crashes, not only for older drivers but also older pedestrians
and bicyclists. May states, "There is all this amazing knowledge we
can tap into as transportation professionals. I'm definitely learning
a lot from occupational therapists and others on the team about
the language, the research, and the different roles that people play
in caring for and serving older adults. It's changed the way I've
approached my role in traffic safety, and the way I think about aging
in my family and myself."
While Davis explains she is a neutral party looking at the health
care aspects of an aging population, the team benefits from her
perspective of looking at the individual person and highlighting
several areas to examine with older drivers. For example, she states
that changes in driving ability are inherently associated with aging,
and that change affects every one of us as we age. It can be harder to
read small signs as we age, so if transportation professionals make
sign lettering larger as a universal design change, everyone will read
them better. Davis looks at the challenges from a person-centered



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ITE Journal March 2018

ITE Journal March 2018 - 1
ITE Journal March 2018 - 2
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