Elderly Drivers: How old is too old?

by John McKiggan

Last week I posted about how many drivers are not aware of the dangers posed by their car’s rear blind spot. Yesterday I asked under what circumstances a persons driving privileges should be restricted.

Today I want to talk about another driver safety issue that is just starting to come to the public’s attention. But it is an issue that is going to become more important in the near future. I also want to provide some information that may help improve the safety of our roads and highways.

Why Do I Care?

I represent the family of a young boy who suffered a serious brain injury as a result of a car crash. The driver that injured him, a senior citizen, backed out of her parking spot, accelerated backwards and crushed the child between two cars. The elderly driver had no explanation for how the crash happened.

In the twenty years that I have been representing accident victims I have heard similar stories time and time again.

Number of Elderly Drivers Increasing

There are nearly 3 million elderly drivers in Canada. But as baby boomers get older this figure will increase to more than 6 million within 25 years. According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal by the year 2025 1 in 4 Canadians will be 65 or older.

Drives age 65 or older account for the highest number of fatalities by age group.

Safe to Drive?

The Canadian Medical Association is calling for a simple test to help determine when a senior citizen is safe to drive. Provincial laws place an obligation on doctors to notify authorities if they suspect their patients are not safe to drive.

No Standards in Place

There is no set age that determines when a person should stop driving. However, in 2009 the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists launched a research program to study driver safety for senior citizens.

Their research indicates that older drivers can be re-trained to improve their response times, increase their flexibility to allow them to do shoulder checks and check behind them and to improve their visual search abilities so they can be more aware of road hazards.

A Few Simple Questions

The Association’s website offers simple questions that senior citizens (or their family members)can ask which may indicate that the driver should be tested.

The questions include:

1. Have you noticed a change in your driving skills?
2. Do other drivers frequently honk their horn at you or show signs of irritation?
3. Have you lost confidence in your driving ability?
4. Have friends or family refused to drive with you?

No Call To Remove Driving Privileges

Surveys show that the majority of Canadians do not want to see elderly drivers stripped of their driving privileges. There is no question that many seniors are safe and capable drivers. My great uncle was driving safely when he was 90 years old!

Drivers Need to Take Personal Responsibility

But ever individual is different and each person has to be aware of how their own driving abilities may have deteriorated and the risks that this poses to themselves and other drivers and pedestrians.

What’s The Answer?

So what do you think? Is the answer mandatory driver testing after a certain age? Increased public education?

More Information:

Traffic Injury Research Foundation

Senior Driver Safety Tips

I have been representing victims of serious personal injuries for 20 years. I wrote The Consumers Guide to Car Accident Claims in Nova Scotia and The Consumers Guide to Medical Malpractice Claims in Canada to help injured victims get fair compensation.

Both books are available for sale on Amazon.

But if you live in Atlantic Canada, you can get a free copy of either the book by contacting me through this blog, visiting my website at www.apmlawyers.com or by calling me toll free in Atlantic Canada at 1-877-891-1664.

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