The Older Driver- Now What?

Originally published at Feb 28, 2013:
Today’s blog was sparked by The Globe and Mail’s editorial of Feb 25, 2013 titled ‘Think, don’t fink’. It discusses Sudbury’s latest initiative called: The North East Dementia Network Coalition Safe Driving Task Force and the establishment of a hot line for anonymous tips about senior drivers. It does not say if the tips are for those who witness poor driving or simply if all older drivers are targeted who may have ‘a touch of dementia’.

I too share concerns about poor drivers- of all ages. However particularly for older drivers, I agree that a better system is needed. I have been thinking about a refresher ‘behind the wheel’ course which truly is the only way to assess someone’s ability to safely drive. Vision and written rules of the road are important but many evaluees pass these tests; which does not mean they are safe drivers.

I asked a number of older individuals, who still drive, how they considered their driving to be and if they had noticed any issues of concerns. All said they had issues; all said that they have had ‘minor fender benders’; none felt inclined to give up the keys. I asked them if they thought participating in a refresher course with ‘behind the wheel’ time with an instructor would be of benefit to them. They all agreed yet they replied they would NOT participate for fear of failing and losing their license.
Certainly it is in everyone’s interest to get poor drivers off the road and certainly not being involved in a car accident, saves lives but it also saves money to the insurance company as well as the health care communities. The threat of failing and losing one’s license needs to be addressed. This blog will not discuss some of the other major issues- such as a general lack of access to transportation for seniors in our communities and the loss of independence, which is so heartfully felt when someone gives up their keys.

Rather, why have insurance companies not offered a refresher driving program to at risk drivers? Is it cost?

What if your insurance company paid for the course from your premiums or for those drivers who paid themselves, their insurer would offer a discount for continued claims-free driving? Seems to me it would be a win – win for everyone. The real question is at what age would a refresher driving program be most beneficial where the greatest buy in from drivers, would occur, with the greatest benefit?

If it was offered every few years starting from a particular age ( 45, 50, 60?) or after a driver had their first (or second or third) claim, or even if it was offered to new drivers to Canada who have not enjoyed a Canadian winter driving experience, as the process becomes more commonplace, it also becomes less threatening.
I have some ideas on this topic and an anonymous tip call in number is not one of them. What do you think?

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