The Older Driver Part 2

Allaboutestates. Written on February 27, 2012 – 7:07 am | by Audrey Miller

On January 5, 2012, I previously blogged on issues confronting the older driver and ways family members may be able to intervene. A few days ago, Ontario’s transportation minister indicated that he expects drivers with dementia will face tough new rules within the year and that there are plans to strengthen the licensing process for drivers with a dementia. At the present time, drivers over age 80 in order to renew their license, are required to attend a driver’s license renewal session with other senior drivers. At this session, they will:
• Have their vision tested
• Take a multiple-choice test on traffic rules and signs
• Participate in a group education session
For more information read The Ministry booklet.
The ministry is considering making the following changes: better training for family doctors on reporting cognitively impaired patients who drive; more rigorous on-road testing of senior drivers; and the introduction of graduated licensing for some seniors who, like teenage drivers, would not be allowed to drive at night or on 400-series highways.
The Star’s recent series found that Ontario, along with the rest of Canada, is facing a surge of senior drivers who are suffering from dementia and are losing the cognitive skills to stay safe behind the wheel. Dementia affects the brain’s functioning, creating an inability to work out a complicated decision and, as it advances, a lack of awareness that a decision even needs to be made. The number of drivers with dementia in Ontario will more than double from about 45,000 today to nearly 100,000 in 2028, according to a Queen’s University study.

In Ontario, family doctors are legally responsible for reporting patients with dementia to the ministry. But one survey by Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre found that only about 3 per cent of medically unfit drivers who were in serious crashes had been previously reported by their doctors. Speaking with family doctors, I know first hand that this is a very difficult decision for them to make as many have long standing relationships with their patients and they don’t want to be the one viewed as taking away their independence.

I have been a long time advocate of behind the wheel assessments, however costs can be a deterrent. Perhaps there is a way that insurers can cover the costs as identifying and possibly removing unsafe drivers (of all ages) from the roads, will reduce claims exposure. For many of us, we can recognize that:
* we don’t see as well at night and perhaps this is not the best time to be driving
* driving in inclement weather is more difficult with icy/slippery roads.
While drivers with a dementia don’t have this insight, I often wonder if the rest of the drivers out there, do.

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