Sudbury Snitch Line to Report Older Drivers

People in Sudbury are being encouraged to use Crimestoppers to report older drivers; police then show up at the home of the driver and counsel the driver to get tested or give up their licence

This initiative is targeted at family members who want to get the older driver off the road but don’t want to confront him/her themselves

There are competing values: We want everyone to be safe on the road; we are not recommending that unsafe drivers be allowed to keep driving.

Also bear in mind that for older drivers, having their licence is very important to their independence and dignity, and especially in areas like Sudbury, where everyone is heavily reliant on their cars to get around.

So how do we balance these interests?

Our members tell us that the car is very important to them but they will also self-limit, that is choose to limit their driving to daylight hours or off major highways. And they will give up their licence when they feel they are unable to drive safely.

That leaves those who are adamant about keeping their licence and those with dementia. How do we keep them and everyone else safe on the road?

Remedial training should be the first choice – both when a problem is identified or just as a matter of good skills maintenance; rather than with the threat of losing their licence hanging over their heads.

Legitimate testing protocols need to be standardized across the country and applied across all age groups. The road test is still the gold standard whereas touch screen proxy tests are controversial – these test your ability to work with a touch screen rather than your ability to drive. And rather than just target senior drivers, perhaps all drivers need to show they have taken a remedial driving course or test before getting their licence renewal.

As for dementia, the Alzheimers’ Society tells us that dementia a graduated condition; not every skill disappears at the onset. It may be that driving safely is one of the last skills we lose. This question should be answered by experts.

Before we interfere with people’s rights and snatch their licence from them, there should be options, and due process based on valid testing of the ability to drive, not based on presumptions about all older drivers. And the family members who care enough about their loved one’s driving should screw up their courage and have the “talk” rather than call in the police. That conversation would be much easier if the remedial training were the norm and readily available.

In the absence of better options like remedial training programs and fair screening or testing protocols, well-meaning people will come up with quick fixes that depend on presumptions that older people are unsafe drivers and take away their independence without due consideration. As the saying goes, If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

There is a silver lining, however. All the media attention will get families talking and drivers thinking about their own driving ability, to get remedial training or to limit their driving.

A snitch line is not the right answer. Crimestoppers and the police must surely have more serious crimes to address.

Late Breaking News: Sudbury Police Chief apologizes and reconsidering plans to roll program out across Ontario.

I guess the police heard from CARP members and others – loud and clear.

Read More Media Coverage of this Story 


Posted: February 21, 2013
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