Time to treat senior drivers fairly!

TORONTO – As I was leaving a party recently, the host turned to an older person and asked if he was OK driving.

“Oh, I don’t drive at night any more,” was the cheerful response. His wife had taken over, he explained, as he no longer felt comfortable driving after dark.

I thought how very sensible he was. I’ve noticed many senior drivers self-regulate in some way.

This article was published by The Toronto Sun on February 27th,  2013.  To see this article and other related articles on The Toronto Sun website, please click here

Some give up driving on the 400-series highways. Others don’t drive in bad weather. Still others only drive a couple of times a week to events close to home on routes they’re familiar with. Some just voluntarily quit altogether.

Conventional wisdom says that as the baby boomer demographic ages, the growing number of aging drivers on the roads will become a crisis.

Sudbury has set up a snitch line, so people can anonymously turn in bad older drivers.

Greater Sudbury Police, OPP, Sudbury-Manitoulin EMS, Sudbury-Manitoulin Dementia Network and Sudbury-Manitoulin Alzheimer’s Society, collaborated to form the North East Dementia Network Coalition Safe Driving Task Group.

While cops are backing away from it now, the snitch line originally encouraged people to call Crime Stoppers to rat out bad older drivers.

That doesn’t sit well with Susan Eng, head of the Canadian Association for Retired People (CARP).

She says such issues can usually be dealt with by families having a conversation with their older parents.

The backlash to the tip line has been fierce.

“This was a solution without a real problem,” she said.

Eng says the snitch line is based on false perceptions about older people.

It’s an issue that hits especially hard in small towns and rural communities where there’s no public transit. If you don’t have a car, you can become cut off from the rest of the world.

“It’s an issue of need, independence and, frankly, dignity,” Eng said in a phone interview.

CARP has polled its membership to find out how many would give up their licences if they felt they could no longer drive safely, and the overwhelming majority of respondents said they would.

They prefer remedial training and road tests over computer-simulated driving tests and tip lines.

“Many older drivers fear their driving skills will be judged based on stereotypes of older drivers,” Eng said.

“There’s always a presumption that the older driver who was involved in an accident was definitely at fault because they were older,” she said. “We’re never given the age of a younger driver who killed an elderly pedestrian.”

She says a better plan would be for Transportation Minister Glen Murray to implement better remedial training for all drivers.

And that’s fair enough. We all want to make sure our roads are safe — but punishing older drivers just because of their age or encouraging friends and family to snitch on them makes no sense.

Murray has asked for a meeting with CARP to discuss seniors and driving.

“Driving is an important part of their individuality and identity,” he said through a spokesman Wednesday, adding he’s aware that two-thirds of seniors live in suburban areas where they rely primarily on cars for transport.

With that in mind, I’d like to implement my own driver snitch line.

Feel free to squeal on:

  • Young drivers who recklessly speed on highways, road race with each other and weave in and out of traffic.
  • Idiots who don’t clear snow off their cars, so they can hardly see where they’re going and the snow blows on other cars.
  • Speeders who race on residential streets where kids are playing. Where’s the radar? Why do cops stop people where it’s safe to go a little over the limit, but not where people are walking and kids are playing?
  • People who change lanes without signalling.

And the old geezers? Most of them have it figured out.

They’ll quit when they need to.

© The Toronto Sun