‘No alarming trend’ about seniors' driving ability


A societal trend that supposes elderly drivers have a greater risk of crashing their vehicles isn’t backed up by the facts, says a Northern Ontario School of Medicine professor.
“When you look at the statistics, senior drivers pose no greater threat — there is no alarming trend,” Michel Bedard said.
Bedard, who is also director of Lakehead University’s five-year-old Centre for Research on Safe Driving, said some jurisdictions are unnecessarily cracking down on seniors over unfounded fears that they pose an undue risk to themselves and other motorists.
Bedard, who spoke about the issue Tuesday during a public lecture at NOSM’s Lakehead campus, said he’s concerned that the “tools” for testing an elderly person’s cognitive powers “are not precise” and may lead to false conclusions about a driver’s ability to drive safely.
“That is my fear,” he said.
Starting April 21, Ontario drivers aged 80 and over will no longer be subject to a written test, but will be required to take part in “a shorter, simpler (driver’s licence) renewal program.”
The program is to include a vision test, a review of the driver’s record, a classroom session and two “screening exercises.”
“The new screening exercises are simple, non-computerized tasks that help identify drivers who may need further assessment, such as a road test or medical review,” the Ministry of Transportation said in an earlier news release.
The new process is to take about 90 minutes — about half the time of the current test. Ontario drivers must get tested every two years once they turn 80. The charge for the test is $32.
“These changes will help seniors stay on the roads safely with a more streamlined renewal process, while also better flagging those who shouldn’t be driving,” Transportation Minister Glen Murray said in the release.
Bedard said while Ontario’s program seems more reasonable than what some other jurisdictions have been proposing, he maintains that seniors are being “short-changed.”
Thunder Bay Police traffic Sgt. Glen Porter, who admires Bedard’s research, said regardless of age, injury-causing collisions are usually attributed to aggressive driving, distracted driving, impaired driving and unsecured seatbelts.