Risk Prevention: Seniors Behaving Badly

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The older the driver, the higher the risk. Is your fleet facing this reality?

The fastest growing segment of drivers in Canada is seniors. Representing only 8 percent of the population in 1971, seniors (over 65) should constitute one quarter of the population by 2036.

According to Statistics Canada, three-quarters of Canadian seniors have a driver’s licence and, other than young male drivers, people aged 70 or older have the highest crash rates. In addition, drivers aged 65+ represent 17 percent of crash fatalities, even though they only account for 14 percent of drivers. Part of the reason for this greater risk of fatality is that seniors are more fragile so will sustain greater harm in a crash.

Increased risk

Statistics don’t lie. There is an increased risk posed by this demographic group behind the wheel. Responsible legislators, however, need to balance this with policies that promote fair, equal treatment of older drivers.

Most of us remember the day we received our driver’s license. Borrowing our parents’ car for the first time and heading out to school, work or a party came with a delicious taste of freedom. Multiply that feeling by one to eight decades of driving and you might start to understand how a senior might feel when forced to do additional testing or even relinquish their driving privileges.

Ability vs. age

Fairness entails assessing drivers on ability rather than age. If “40 is the new 20,” does that mean “80 is the new 40?” Seniors today are certainly more fit and active than at any time in history. Therefore, age should not be used as the basis for deciding if a driver can continue to drive. That decision should be based on the driver’s physical and cognitive fitness.

According to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) Medical Standards for Drivers, “In assessing the older driver, factors such as slowed reaction time, lack of attentiveness, poorer judgment, failing vision, slowed thought process, episodes of confusion, declining memory, loss of physical strength, arthritis, severe respiratory problems and liability to sudden changes in heart rhythm must be considered.”

Aging fleet drivers

Doesn’t sound like a fleet problem to you? In the commercial fleet industry alone, seniors represent approximately 10 percent of drivers and are 1.5 times more likely to be involved in serious crashes than drivers between 45 and 64. This means that, of the 260,000 commercial drivers in Canada, 26,000 are aged 65 and over and these numbers are higher in sales fleets and others.

Provincial laws govern medical and testing requirements and must be adhered to. They fluctuate widely and only Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island have policies based on “fitness to drive.”

Every other province has an age-based policy with additional testing required from a specified age that ranges from 64 to 80. In addition to adhering to these laws,  consideration should be given to fleet policies that show respect for the individual.

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