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Elderly drivers: Safer than you might think

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For one, no matter what you’ve heard or believe, drivers over the age of 70 are not the biggest menaces on the road.

“While older drivers have their issues, we have to remember that overwhelmingly the most dangerous drivers on the road are young males,” says Ian Jack, managing director of communications and government relations at the Canadian Automobile Association’s national office.
While superannuated motorists are involved in their share of accidents, according to the latest statistics, collision rates for seniors are dropping even as their numbers increase.

“People have to respect the fact that the vast majority of older drivers are safer drivers,” says Dr. Shawn Marshall, principal investigator for Candrive, a project studying seniors’ driving patterns that is developing a screening tool for those most at risk.

The fact is that today’s average 80-year-old driver is a lot healthier than the average octogenarian of a few decades ago – with better vision, thanks to advancements in procedures such as cataract replacements. In addition, the baby-boomer-fuelled grey wave has produced a greater awareness of the issue.

“The older drivers have changed, in part because their expectations have changed,” Marshall says. “The drivers we have now are probably more sophisticated, they have expectations of driving longer and have driving integrated into their lives.”

There are more provincially run programs available to keep older drivers on the road. As well, there are tests to identify drivers at risk or drivers who might put others at risk.

Marshall says his years of study have left him feeling safer about sharing roads with the grey wave.
“The vast majority are safe drivers,” he says. “I don’t know why when somebody turns 65 or 66, we assume there will be a difference.”

Adapted Globe and Mail 21/02/18