In March 2008, a scan team of nine transportation safety, traffic engineering, and human factors experts from the United States visited Australia and Japan to assess and evaluate infrastructure improvements designed to aid older road users. The team met with state and federal government transportation officials, university research centers, and staff from motorists' clubs and other nongovernmental organizations interested in the mobility of older people. The team selected these countries to visit because they have demographics and aging trends similar to those in the United States and strong traffic safety records. From the information the team obtained during the scanning study, it identified several planning, design, and operational changes that could be implemented in the United States to improve the mobility and safety of older road users.
The team highlighted the following findings from the scanning study:
- The aging of society is a global issue. Transportation providers in developed countries worldwide will face a common set of issues because of the aging of transportation system users.
- Highway safety must be emphasized at the highest levels of government to build political will to implement system changes that benefit older road users.
- Local government involvement in implementing safety plans is critical for success.
- A systems approach to highway safety is most effective. This involves engineering, education, enforcement, and evaluation.
- Infrastructure and operational changes hold great promise for improving safety for older road users.
- Historical safety data are used in the countries studied, particularly Australia, for planning, policy development, and program evaluation.
- Improving safety for older road users improves safety for all and vice versa.
- Removing driving privileges prematurely has unintended consequences, such as forcing users to less safe modes of transport.
- Mobility options are critical for continued quality of life in terms of physical and mental health outcomes. A subgroup of the scan team was tasked with identifying items that could be implemented in the United States. The findings of this scanning study will be implemented through the following activities:
- Enhancement of U.S. roadway design and operations practice through incorporation of best practices and research findings into standards, guidelines, and handbooks used by transportation professionals
- Outreach to nontraditional partners, such as motoring clubs, health-care providers, and seniors' organizations, to promote self-assessment for drivers and education about mobility alternatives to driving
- Encouragement of a targeted research program to evaluate specific infrastructure improvements observed in these countries that show promise to aid older road users
- Establishment of development guidelines for use by local government and real estate developers to promote best practices for access and use by older residents