Cluster of Pedestrian Deaths Re-ignites Older Driver Debate

A tragic cluster of deaths has rocked the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) – in less than three weeks there have been fourteen pedestrian fatalities. One of first of these incidents occurred on January 14th when a young mother was killed by an 83 year-old driver. The public and the media immediately honed in on the driver’s age but fortunately, CARP was one of the first out the gate to indicate that there are bad drivers at any age and that ability, not age, dictates one’s capacity to drive. To read more on this story, click here.

Still, the older drivers issue surfaces each time there is a fatality involving a senior driver. After this incident the press asked the Ontario Premier if this was cause to re-visit licensing for senior citizens. Some of the major papers’ readers posting comments in reaction to the story even suggested that driver’s licenses should be revoked at age 65! Back in 2000 another Toronto woman died after being run over by an 84 year-old driver thus launching thus launching an inquiry into the effectiveness of demographic profiling. The jury determined that ability, not age, determines a person’s aptitude to drive.

So why does the public always raise the same issue every time there is an accident involving an older driver? It would seem that unfortunately, ageism still prevails in the court of public opinion.

For many older Canadians a drivers license is a measure of independence and as many of you will know all too well, it can be next to impossible to live in rural areas without being able to drive. None of this means that there is no real issue at stake here – conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, stroke and impaired vision severely inhibit one’s capacity to drive. To make matters worse, people with cognitive impairments may not know that they are no longer safe to drive. To read safety tips for older drivers please Read more

But banning older drivers from the road is not the solution: there are other measures that can be taken to protect both drivers and pedestrians. (To read more on this please read Age-Friendly Cities, Pedestrian Safety, Universal Design and Older Drivers.

CARP’s position is that there needs to be a variety of checks and balances in place. We need to develop an evidence based standard medical test that can determine impairment that may inhibit someone’s ability drive. CANDRIVE is a research project doing just that and they are still looking for volunteers. To read more on this, please click here.

The way various Ministries of Transportation deal with this varies from province to province. Many allow conditional licensing which has proven to be an effective way of allowing people to maintain their freedom while keeping them safe. Ontario, however, doesn’t. Therefore, CARP has written the newly minted Minister of Transportation to request this policy be reviewed. For more on this, Read Ministry of Transportation Needs to Get with the Times

Keywords: ageism, seniors, driving