Senior drivers debate sparked by Winnipeg collision

The debate over whether elderly drivers should undergo mandatory testing in Manitoba has been ignited after a young girl was hit by a car that was operated by an 86-year-old man.

Injured girl's mom wants 86-year-old man's licence taken away

The mother of a 10-year-old Winnipeg girl who was hit by a car this week says the 86-year-old man who was behind the wheel should not be driving. 1:57

The debate over whether elderly drivers should undergo mandatory testing in Manitoba has been ignited after a young girl was hit by a car that was operated by an 86-year-old man.

Kaitlin Manibo, 10, is recovering in hospital with a neck fracture and a fractured leg after she was struck near a parking lot at McPhillips Street and Machray Avenue on Tuesday afternoon.

Kaitlin's mother, Madonna Manibo, said she and her daughter were walking home after school when a car that was initially reversing slowly from the parking lot suddenly sped backwards.

According to Winnipeg police, the car went over the curb of the parking lot entrance and struck the girl on the sidewalk. The vehicle kept going until it finally crashed into a tree.

Madonna Manibo told CBC News they were walking on the sidewalk one moment, and the next moment her daughter was on the ground.

"When I turned … I see she's lying on the street already. But some of the students said she [was] just standing there and they just saw her flying," Manibo said Thursday.

"After that accident happened, she's talking and she's trying to say, 'Mom, can you help me? Trying to get up.'"

Tire marks could be seen for a distance, about the equivalent of a block, from the spot where the car was parked to the tree where it crashed.

Police said on Wednesday that it was too early to say if criminal charges will be laid against the 86-year-old man who was behind the wheel of the car.

Kaitlin has had surgery done on her leg, her mother said, adding that her daughter will probably be in hospital for another week before she is sent home with a pin in her leg.

When asked if the man should have his driver's licence taken away, Manibo said she believes so.

"He's 86. I think so, yeah. I hope it's not going to happen again," she said.

No mandatory policy

There is no mandatory re-testing policy in place in the province for drivers in any age group, including seniors, according to Manitoba Public Insurance.

In Ontario, drivers who turn 80 years old must pass written and vision tests — and road tests for those who have demerit points — to ensure they are still fit to drive.

Since 2010, British Columbia has required drivers to go through a driver fitness test every two years once they reach the age of 80.

Katrina Diglisic, a Winnipeg driving instructor who helps older drivers stay behind the wheel, said Manitoba should also introduce re-tests when drivers turn 80.

"I don't think it could hurt," Diglisic told CBC News on Wednesday.

"I think they could look at their statistics, they can … see if it's made an impact on senior drivers and lowered their accident rates. I think Manitoba should definitely look into something like that."

Difficult decision

A Manitoba government spokesperson has said the issue of re-testing drivers should be based on their ability to drive, not their age.

Diglisic said older drivers must discuss with their family members when it's time for them to stop driving — a decision that she acknowledged can be difficult.

"People don't recognize when to stop driving because they're afraid to lose their independence," she said.

"They've been independent this long, and I think that there's fear in losing that independence, especially if they live in an area that's not transit-friendly."

Two editorials published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in recent years — one in 2010 and one in April of this year — have called on governments to adopt plans for senior drivers.

In the more recent editorial, the authors proposed a graduated licensing system much like what is in place for young and new drivers in Manitoba and other jurisdictions.

MPI notes that drivers between 16 and 24 years old make up 14 per cent of licensed drivers in the province, but they account for 21 per cent of fatal crashes.