A very successful Fall Forum was held in early November, attended by many retired faculty and partners as well as by a small number of persons from Third Age Learning Guelph. Dr. Brenda Vrkljan of McMaster presented an informative lecture on the character and potential driving habits of elderly persons, based on studies of older drivers in Canada and abroad. Emphasizing that driving was an important element in modern social life and was central for most elderly remaining healthy and active in their community, she discussed the main characteristics and techniques of the CanDrive study of elderly driving. This is a study by occupational therapists using CIHR funding.
At the moment, the CanDrive study here and in Australia employs a five-year longitudinal examination of elderly drivers’ physical and mental reaction times, linking drivers’ ages and traffic records and using the results of cognitive testing. The drivers involved cover a broad social spectrum of age (70+), gender, residence and education. She showed a brief film of bad driving habits and concluded with the current results for low mileage drivers and higher mileage drivers.
Sgt. David Doxey of the Guelph Police Service then discussed typical driving errors of older drivers, emphasizing that traffic accidents for such drivers rises dramatically for most drivers after age 75. Older drivers are less likely to be involved in traffic offences involving use of alcohol, night-time driving and/or speeding. On the other hand, older drivers are more likely to be involved in traffic accidents involving intersections, turning, stop signs, misjudging time and/or distance from objects, and remaining in designated lanes.
Sgt. Doxey brought the audience’s attention to Ontario Bill 31, a crucial section of which will come into force on 1 January 2016. It requires that drivers must allow any pedestrian (who had legally entered an intersection walkway) to clear the entire walkway before proceeding. When questioners pointed out the potential problems in instances of particularly wide streets or where medians existed half-way across, Sgt. Doxey answered that police are seeking clarification of this section of the Bill. Further information may well be forthcoming.
Sgt. Doxey outlined the Ontario requirements for drivers aged 80 or more, involving renewal of their licenses. He also pointed out that the Ontario government tracks the accident records of drivers aged 70 or more, and that those records can result in warnings or more from the appropriate government agency. Finally, in response to another question it was pointed out that drivers education programmes existed in various communities for older drivers (comparable to such as Young Drivers of Canada) and that such retraining might affect one’s insurance rates.