Your Rights: CARP warns against ageism toward older drivers

While driving is a privilege, the right to drive should be based on ability rather than age.

The issue of Older Drivers is a hot topic in the media due to the recent Aging Driver Mobility Forum sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. The Forum itself was wide-ranging, focusing on many safety issues for motorists including: improved signage, road and vehicle design, accessibility, affordable public transportation, medical reporting, remedial measures for some physical problems, and respect for older persons. However, media coverage has concentrated on the possibility of a “limited or restricted” license for older drivers.

CARP is warning against taking an ageist attitude toward the right of older Canadians to keep driving.

“The right to keep driving is crucial to the independence and mobility of people especially as they age and hence an important element of their quality of life. CARP would support bona fide regulation or restrictions based on competency but not blanket restrictions or increased insurance costs based purely on the driver’s age,” said Susan Eng, Vice President of Advocacy for CARP.

Mark Yakabuski, President & CEO Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) said in a news release, “Everybody ages differently and we don’t want to send the message that all older drivers are dangerous, because it’s simply not true.”

CARP supports this statement while recognizing the need for driver retraining. As a result CARP has been a community partner/sponsor of the Drive Wise program ( Drive Wise is a free OPP-delivered seminar that includes a basket of tips, suggestions and driving strategies, which are preventive measures against the most likely causes of collisions and mishaps faced by mature Canadians on the road.

In June 2003, CARP was awarded the OPP’s Partners in Community Safety award for its commitment to Drive Wise. According to CARP, determinants need to be developed for health care professionals to effectively measure physical and cognitive impairment in terms of safe driving – and this includes clearly defining medical impairment to avoid abuse. CARP supports CANDRIVE which is a research program doing just that.

“The possibility of short-term, low-cost on-the-road refresher courses for seniors (in particular) to upgrade their skills is another approach that may improve the skills of aging drivers,” reports Carol Libman, CARP’s Advocacy Consultant.

This course would be different from the one for beginner drivers, in that most of the motorists would be experienced and probably already have good judgment, but may feel intimidated by huge increases in traffic and/or some physical problems of their own, for which they need to compensate. Or, perhaps they could have been involved in an accident and are required to take a road test in order to renew their license and want to brush up on specific driving skills.

CARP will continue to advocate for older drivers and remind government and stakeholders that while driving is a privilege, the right to drive should be based on ability rather than age.

Photo © di Filippo

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