By: Dr. Justin Mason, Dr. Sandra Winter, Dr. Ilir Bejleri, and Donna Schoenfelder
Research has shown that as people age, their eyesight, hearing, and reflexes are not as sharp as they once were. Additionally, their reaction time decreases, making it no longer safe to drive. As a consequence, older drivers face several decisions related to driving as they age. They may need to reduce their driving or stop driving all together. They find themselves with reduced access to transportation, which limits their independence and access to family, friends, and community.
To address this issue, The University of Florida’s “Aging Road User Information Systems” project, sponsored by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), was undertaken. This is a collaboration between team members at the University of Florida’s Department of Occupational Therapy (Dr. Justin Mason and Dr. Sandra Winter) and the College of Design, Construction & Planning (Dr. Ilir Bejleri). This FDOT service project maintains a transportation database and interactive mapping informed by a Geographic Information System (GIS) system.
“Older adults may need to stop driving, reduce their driving, or have reduced access to transportation,” said Dr. Sandra Winter, Project Coordinator and Associate Director of the Institute for Mobility, Activity, & Participation (I-MAP) within UF’s College of Public Health & Health Professions, and led by Dr. Sherrilene Classen. “This can result in worry about how to meet their daily needs and participate in their communities.”
To help older drivers find transportation options, FDOT’s concept was a site FindaRideFlorida.org providing comprehensive and accurate information about transportation options for Florida’s 67 counties. This UF project meets objectives of the Aging Road User Strategic Safety Plan as coordinated by the Safe Mobility for Life Coalition. Site users enter the starting location of their trip, and the website results outline transportation providers, along with contact information. As transportation trends evolve, UF is adding transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft and cataloging autonomous shuttles and other autonomous ride-sharing services.
“Loss of driving and a lack of transportation have a big impact on physical and mental health,” Dr. Winter said. “We want people to continue to meet their daily needs, participate in their communities and do the things they enjoy,”
While FindaRideFlorida.org was developed with older adults in mind, it serves users of any age.
In place since 2004, the site is continuously improved with the goal of making it more accurate and user-friendly. An interactive mapping component was initiated in 2019, and a Spanish Translation will be added this year.