Florida Highway Patrol Lieutenant Leonard Zimmerer developed a resource guide through NHTSA, "Older Drivers, Cues for Law Enforcement." This publication provides cues for law enforcement officers to help them determine the safe operational needs of older drivers. Medical barriers to safe mobility, such as Alzheimer's disease, other dementias, loss/reduced vision, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, stroke, and slowed reaction time also are outlined. In addition, non-medical barriers to safe mobility, such as interior and exterior design of motor vehicles, and engineering barriers to safe operation of a vehicle are addressed. The publication also provides the field officer with safe operational mobility cues to look for when encountering an older driver. Law enforcement intervention, such as referrals to local assistance agencies, seeking information from family members, recommending public transportation systems, restricting certain types of motor vehicle operation, offering driver training, and reminding the older driver that self-assessment is an important step in maintaining safe operational mobility, also are out-lined in the publication. The cues were field tested by Florida State Troopers in Pinellas County, Florida, during April 1998. The Older Drivers, Cues for Law Enforcement is available through NHTSA.
Lieutenant Leonard Zimmerer
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office is a member of the Pasco County Community Traffic Safety Team. The team is a consortium of members from transportation agencies, law enforcement, AARP, health agencies, and citizen groups to include senior citizens. The networking allows the sheriff's office to become aware of older driver issues. The sheriff's Traffic Safety Liaison addresses the concerns with the help of the Safety Team.
In December 2001, Sgt. Erik Anthes created a program to reduce vehicle/pedestrian collisions on U. S. Route 19 by implementing the "Creative Light Program." Between 1990 and 2000, a high number of pedestrian fatalities, including those involving older pedestrians, occurred on this stretch of highway. The sheriff's office organized a multi-police agency traffic team to contact pedestrians crossing the highway at night and provided them with a flashing red light that is attached to the clothing. The flashing beacon allows the pedestrian to be more visible as he or she walks near or crosses the highway. The sheriff's office initially received 300 of the lights, which cost approximately $1.00 each.
Deputies provide safety education displays and programs to community members. Occupant protection has been emphasized to the large senior population.
Deputies receive approximately two hours of in-service training in Alzheimer's disease and are provided a handbook to be used as a resource guide for interacting with people suffering from the disease.
Sergeant Erik Anthes
The Plantation, Florida Police Department presents a monthly training seminar for senior drivers, "Coaching the Mature Driver." Lynn Braden, Customer Relations Coordinator with the department, teaches this National Safety Council-sponsored eight-hour program at the police department's training facility. The program provides senior drivers with information on traffic safety, occupant protection, and how the body changes as it ages. The police department and National Safety Council advertise the class in local newspapers at no cost to the police department. Attendees pay $12 to the National Safety Council for the cost of the class. Approximately 30 seniors receive the training per session.
In addition to the driver safety class, Ms. Braden coordinates the police department's Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (S.A.L.T.) Program, which meets monthly at the Police Department to educate seniors about safety. Crime Prevention/Community Policing Officer Bob Wilkins educates the seniors on many topics, including driving safety, new road construction, and new traffic laws applicable to their area. Approximately 50-75 seniors attend these monthly meetings.
Customer Relations Coordinator Lynn Braden
Deputy Dotti Burkett-Dreggors of the Seminole County, Florida Sheriff's Office developed a class, "The Graying of America: How It Will Affect the Delivery of Law Enforcement Services," which she teaches to law enforcement agencies across the United States. The class provides participants with a heightened level of awareness about the effects of aging on many seniors. The program was designed specifically for law enforcement/first responders to form more positive interactions with the elderly. The class addresses understanding problems, characteristics, and needs of the senior population, and how to interact with the older population.
Deputy Burkett-Dreggors ties in the sensitivity issues with older drivers through a "volunteer" demonstration during the class. A student (usually under 40 years of age) is asked to sit in front of the class and wear vision impairing glasses and gloves that simulate arthritis. Deputy Burkett-Dreggors portrays the traffic officer and asks the volunteer to provide a driver's license. The simple task of retrieving a driver's license from a wallet with the gloves on and then identifying the license from other items in the wallet becomes difficult and frustrating. The task is compounded with the officer explaining that she is in a hurry to another call while asking the driver to hurry. The demonstration addresses sensitivity and problems associated with aging and driving.
In addition to training deputies, the sheriff's office and the Seminole County TRIAD participate in a vehicle emergency card program for older drivers. Medical information on the driver and passenger, if applicable, is provided on a card and placed in the glove box for use by first responders. First responders are tipped to the information by a sticker on the window of the vehicle that identifies the occupants as participants in the program.
The Tallahassee Police Department's Traffic Unit teaches the AARP Driver Safety Program. The course is designed especially for motorists 50 years of age and older. The eight-hour course covers vision change, hearing, and reaction time associated with aging, and provides practical techniques to compensate for these changes. Participants also receive a thorough review of the "rules of the road," with an emphasis on defensive driving practices. Currently, six officers from the Traffic Unit have met the AARP instructor certification and teach approximately 9-10 classes per year in the Tallahassee area. The classes are taught at the police department and local assisted living homes. The typical class has 20 to 30 attendees.
The police department supports the officers by providing on-duty time to teach the class. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), National Sheriffs' Association (NSA), and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging are just a few of the sponsors. The partnership between the older drivers, AARP, and the department defines community policing. Through this course, the Tallahassee Traffic Unit provides training for nearly 200 older drivers each year, resulting in a positive impact on many more people in the community.
Lieutenant Cheryl Stewart
Sergeant Judy Suchocki
The following Florida law enforcement agencies provide assistance to the AARP Driver Safety Program classes:
The Largo Police Department.