I don't know about you, but when I hear the phrase "too old to drive", I can't help but think of this clip of the tiny old lady weaving around the street from Ferris Bueller's Day Off:
Clearly, this woman shouldn't have been driving her land yacht at her time of life. But age alone is not necessarily a good predictor of who can drive. Due to their vast experience behind the wheel, seniors can be some of the safest drivers out there. As we get older, however, we are more likely to develop medical issues that may make driving risky. Vision problems, slower reflexes and decreased mobility are just a few of the changes that seniors are dealing with.
With the Baby Boomer generation gliding into seniorhood, the number of senior drivers on the roads has never been higher - 3.5 million drivers over the age of 65 headed out on Canadian roads last year. And with such a large cohort of seniors on the road, the question of "how old is too old to drive?" has sparked a great deal of debate.
While teen boys still have more accidents overall, senior drivers have the most accidents per km driven. And according to this Globe and Mail article:
"In 2010, two thirds of Canadians over the age of 65 were using multiple medications and nearly nine out of 10 suffered from a chronic condition; a quarter of adults in the 65 to 79 age group suffered four or more chronic conditions. In the 80-plus age group, the number jumped to more than a third, according to data published by the Public Health Agency of Canada."
On the other hand, some seniors feel that they've been unfairly targeted and had their licenses suspended after minor traffic infractions for the simple crime of "driving while elderly". For many seniors, losing their license means losing their independence, putting them at risk for becoming isolated, especially if they live in rural areas with little access to public transit.
So how do we decide which seniors are safe to drive and which aren't?
At the moment, each province regulates older drivers differently. In Ontario, for example, after age 80, you must take a vision test, a written test and a group education test every two years to renew your license. Here in BC, all drivers over 80 must have a Driver Medical Examination Report in order to renew their license every two years and may have to take a road test if the doctor recommends it.
The Canadian Driving Research Initiative for Vehicular Safety in the Elderly (CANDrive) is working on developing a nation-wide standardized medical screening test to evaluate senior drivers - to help safe drivers stay on the road and determine what steps to take for at-risk senior drivers. Their aim is to "improve the health, safety and quality-of-life of Canada's older drivers" - an important goal with so many senior drivers on the road today.
What do you think is the best way to regulate older drivers? Take our poll below!
- Rose R.