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Too old to drive?

With nearly 20 million cars and trucks on our roads, automobiles have become a fact of life for Canadians. But our reliance on them comes at a cost. Over the past 50 years nearly 200,000 Canadians have died in traffic accidents — more than were killed in both world wars combined. In addition, despite vastly improved safety measures automobile accidents continue to be a major cause of death of younger Canadians. CBC Archives takes a look at the long, slow road to improved traffic safety.

media clip
A driver's licence is a necessity for most Canadians, and senior citizens are no exception. With more than three million seniors behind the wheel, people over the age of 65 make up the fastest-growing segment of Canadian drivers. But what happens when advancing age and declining abilities turn them into a threat to others?
This CBC Television clip examines the danger posed by elderly drivers and wonders if -- and when -- they should be taken off the road. 
• Thanks to the baby boom generation, senior citizens now make up the fastest growing section of the Canadian driving public. More than 2.6 million licensed drivers are over 65 years old, a total that accounts for 12 per cent of all drivers. Transport Canada predicts that the total number will double by 2010.
• According to Transport Canada, teenage drivers and senior drivers have more accidents per kilometre driven than any other age group. Drivers over the age of 80 are considered as high-risk as those under the age of 16.

• Doctors say elderly drivers typically suffer from slower response times and limited night vision that hinder their ability behind the wheel.
• Currently, provincial governments (which have jurisdiction over vehicle licensing) rely on doctors and/or family members to assess when an elderly driver is no longer fit to drive.
• In British Columbia, drivers over the age of 80 are required to take medical exams before they can renew their licences.

• Nova Scotia is considering a number of options, including a discount on the cost of car registration and drivers' licenses for seniors if they agree to attend a driver safety course.
• Ontario boasts the toughest seniors' driving legislation in North America, with drivers over 80 required to undergo a reassessment of their reflexes and reaction time every two years.
• Depending on the result of this assessment they may be forced to take a new road test.

• Despite suggestions by some experts, no province in Canada has yet to pass a law requiring seniors to turn in their keys at a certain age. The move would likely be seen as a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by many elderly Canadians who say they rely on their cars for many basic chores.
• According to a study published in the August 2002 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, an increasing number of elderly people are outliving their ability to drive a car by more than a decade.


• While the average driver stops driving around the age of 82, more men and women are living into their late 80s and early 90s, meaning they are forced to rely on alternate means of transportation.
• The study of "driving expectancy" was conducted by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, which estimated that hundreds of thousands of elderly people quit driving annually, limiting their independence and quality of life.


• In an effort to reduce the number of traffic accidents involving younger drivers, many governments are adopting graduated licensing systems. These programs are designed to phase young drivers into their full driving privileges over an extended period of time.
• New Zealand was the first country to set up a graduated licensing program in 1987. Since then 30 U.S. states and six Canadian provinces have implemented similar systems.


• Ontario's system was established in 1994 and consists of two phases which take a minimum of 20 months to complete. You must be at least 16 years old to apply for the first phase, which requires you to pass a vision test and a written driver's test.
• This first level puts a series of conditions on the driver, including always having a licensed driver in the car, and restricts them from driving between midnight and 5 a.m.

• Young drivers must abide by these rules for 12 months before they may advance to the next stage -- allowing them more driving privileges. If a young driver drives for 12 months trouble-free he or she is graduated to a full license.
Medium: Television
Program: Marketplace
Broadcast Date: March 11, 1997
Guest(s): Allan Dobbs, Bill Eaton, Debbie Powers, Lorne Resvick
Reporter: Bill Nunn
Duration: 6:32

Last updated: October 11, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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