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Study: Creating a Better Life For Older Drivers


Canadian researchers are studying the conditions in which older persons can drive safely, and what restrictions are acceptable to older drivers.

This issue has become particularly urgent since a study by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists has revealed that the leading cause of accidental deaths for Canadians 65 to 75 years of age is driving-related accidents.

AHB looks at three different studies to see what they could mean for older drivers.

Do restricted licenses work?

Researchers Glenyth Caragata Nasvadi and Andrew Wister (Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C.) examined the license records and insurance crash claims for all drivers aged 66 years and older in British Columbia. Records covered the years 1999 to 2006.

Results show the risk of causing a crash was 87 per cent lower for restricted drivers compared with unrestricted drivers. There was no difference in severity of collisions between restricted and unrestricted drivers. The findings appeared in the Gerontologist (Vol. 49, No. 4, 2009).

The most common licensing restriction was a combination of daylight driving plus a speed maximum of 80 km/h. Restricted drivers retained a driver’s license for a longer period of time than unrestricted drivers. As well, they continued to drive crash free longer than unrestricted drivers.

The results suggest driving restrictions may be effective in lowering crash risk among older adults. However, the authors note more studies are required to determine which drivers are most likely to benefit from the use of restricted licenses.

What restrictions are acceptable?

In 2006, a team of researchers headed by Shawn Marshall of the University of Ottawa studied the types of licensing restrictions acceptable to older drivers.

The team interviewed 86 licensed drivers living in Ottawa (Ontario) and the surrounding area. Participants were aged 65 years or older and included 56 men and 30 women. Fifty of the participants came from urban areas and 36 were rural residents.

Thumbs up

Drivers endorsed the following restrictions:

regular assessment by the Ministry of Transportation
driving with vehicle adaptations
daytime driving only.

Thumbs down

Drivers were less willing to accept the following restrictions:

avoidance of roads with a speed limit greater than 60km/h
driving only within a 10 km radius of home
requirement for another licensed driver in the vehicle

According to the researchers, the findings, published in Accident Analysis & Prevention (Vol. 39, No. 4, 2007), could assist motor transport administrators to design effective restricted licensing programs that are acceptable to older drivers.

Looking for answers

In 2009, CanDrive launched the most detailed investigation into older adult’s driving habits ever undertaken anywhere. CanDrive was established in 2002 to keep the roads safe and improve the quality of life of older Canadians.

Over the next five years, Shawn Marshall and Malcolm Man-Son-Hing (University of Ottawa) will track 1,000 drivers aged 70 and older in eight cities. The study has two main aims: to identify key factors that impact older drivers; and to develop a screening tool for physicians to make objective decisions about older people’s fitness to drive.

“Everyone thinks we’ve got to get older drivers off the road. The actual issue is keeping them on the roads and as safe as possible,” says Marshall. “The loss of the ability to drive has huge implications on peoples’ independence in their communities and their overall health and well-being.”