How Old is Too Old to Drive?

by John McKiggan

They say that you’re only as old as you think you are, but the older I get the more I realize my body hasn’t heard that saying.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a while to go before I am officially considered to be a “senior citizen”, but I do understand that as we get older we begin to experience driving ability warning signs including loss of certain physical abilities like hearing and eyesight, our reaction times begin to deteriorate, and we tend to require a wide array of medications for various medical conditions which can have any number of effects on older adults’ mental capacity.

This combination of issues can be particularly concerning when older people get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. But how do we get our loved ones and other older drivers to give up their prized driver’s license independence and hand over the keys?

I posed this same question a few years ago and on this page, we’re going to go over how a driver’s age plays into overall driver safety and driving skills. So if you or any family members are trying to navigate the many times complex scenario of helping senior drivers avoid any close calls with other unsafe drivers, contact us today for a free consultation so we can assist you with understanding the warning signs of elderly drivers experiencing a declining driving ability.

The Numbers Speak for Themselves

In the USA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration helped ascertain that seniors make up 9 percent of the general population yet they account for 13 percent of traffic fatalities.

In Canada, there are over 3.25 million people over the age of 65 with a driver’s license. Statistics Canada states that people 70 or older have a higher accident rate than any other age group except for younger drivers, particularly males. Also, as a result of their fragile state, senior drivers are more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.

Although driving tests and eye exams are necessary to undergo for senior drivers to maintain their driver’s license, it’s simply just more likely for elderly drivers to make a mistake like not adequately checking their blind spots, not pressing the brake pedal hard enough, not handling bad weather well, or even accidentally running stop signs.

Delicate Issue 

A recent CBC article addressed the problem of getting senior drivers to give up their driving privileges. In Canada, doctors and other medical professionals may recommend that a patient’s license be revoked provided certain vision test results and other health care dilemmas.

Dr. Jo-Anne Clarke agrees that it’s a difficult conversation to have with a patient of any age group. She recommends focusing the conversation around driving abilities instead of age. She says the discussion should not be about how old the patient is, but about the physical and mental limitations, they might have developed.

Provinces Disagree

The laws across Canada are not uniform, so the provinces each have their own way of dealing with senior drivers, some of which more stringent than others. At the age of 80, in B.C. and Ontario, drivers are required to meet certain obligations if they wish to retain their licenses.

Senior drivers in B.C. submit to a “Driver Medical Examination Report” every two years.

Drivers in Ontario:

(i) take an eye exam/vision test;

(ii) they engage in a 90-minute education session about traffic signals and laws, effects of aging on driving, and they receive tips and advice for older drivers; and,

(iii) they take a multiple-choice test.

This is not the case in Nova Scotia. Instead, since 2001, seniors in Nova Scotia are incentivized to sign up for a non-mandatory safe driving course road test. The government of Nova Scotia subsidizes the course up to $40, with the drivers paying for the remainder.

Potential Liability for Doctors

The Canadian Medical Protection Association notes that the issue is one that raises potential legal concerns for doctors treating senior drivers:

“Physicians have been involved in several actions brought on behalf of an injured party in a motor vehicle accident alleged to have been caused in part by the medical disability of another person who should not have been allowed to continue driving. Physicians have been found liable for failing to report, notably in those provinces and territories with mandatory requirements.”

What Do You Think?

Do you think that Nova Scotia is doing enough to keep unsafe drivers with certain physical ability limitations off the road? Should we wait for doctors to make recommendations to transport Canada before senior driver’s licenses are taken away? Or should there be mandatory road tests, vision test and overall driving ability assessments once senior drivers reach a certain age?

Let me know what your thoughts are pertaining to this very delicate social subject by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page. By hearing from all of you, we’ll be able to better understand how Nova Scotia’s citizens view senior driver laws, and what ought to be discussed throughout the province.  

Want More Information about car accident claims?

If you have been involved in a car crash in Nova Scotia and are looking for information about your legal rights and responsibilities you can learn more by reading my book: Crash Course: The Consumer’s Guide to Car Accident Claims in Nova Scotia.

The book is basically a “crash course” in terms of everything you need to know about auto insurance and car accident claims in Nova Scotia. You can find the Guide on Amazon.com, and all proceeds from book sales go to charity.

Free Copy to Blog Readers

But supporters who read this blog can contact me through this blog or call us tollfree in Atlantic Canada 1-877-891-1664 and we will send you a copy at no charge.

Older drivers throughout Nova Scotia deserve to have their rights upheld, but there will always be older adults that put others at risk with their driving abilities. 

Contact us today for a free consultation if you were involved in a car accident with a negligent senior driver so we can begin gathering the necessary evidence that will hold any negligent parties accountable for your damages.

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