Senior drivers don’t need mandatory medical exams says advocacy group

Bruce Bird says seniors who lose their licences face the loss of their independence

Click here to read this article, published by CBC News BC on March 21, 2015.

Regulations that require drivers who are 80 years old or older to undergo a medical fitness exam should be scrapped because they are discriminatory, says a seniors advocacy group.

Seniors who turn 80 will receive a notice to take a medical exam to ensure they are fit to drive.

They must take the test again every two years, and each test could cost between $75 and $400, said Bruce Bird, chairman of the North Fraser chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.

“It’s ageism,” said Bird, in an interview with Daybreak South. “There’s no evidence that we can find that there’s a need for it.”

Bird says he believes most seniors are good drivers, and those who do lose their licence face losing their independence and becoming housebound.

He cites statistics from the U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which recently found that the rate of decline in traffic accidents is greater for seniors than for middle-aged drivers.

However, according to RoadSafetyBC, drivers aged 80 and older are responsible for almost 70 per cent of the crashes in which they are involved.

It says drivers aged 80 and older are also much more likely to die in those crashes.

But a Transport Canada report in 2011 says the greater risk of a fatality is partially due to the fact that seniors are more fragile, and so are more likely to be killed or seriously injured.

“As seniors age, they are more likely to develop physical and cognitive infirmities, although not all seniors have conditions which affect the safety of their driving,” said the report.

“Therefore, age should not be used as the basis for determining whether a driver can continue to drive, but rather such a decision should be based on the driver’s physical and cognitive fitness to drive safely.”

Bird and his group recently submitted a proposal to the Justice Ministry, but the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles says the province will not change its policy.

“The requirement for drivers to have their medical fitness assessed at age 80 is consistent with most other Canadian jurisdictions and many international jurisdictions,” said Sam Macleod in a written statement.

“Further, the BC Human Rights Tribunal has reviewed the policy of assessing all drivers at age 80, and found it to be consistent with our road safety mandate.”