Since driving at any age remains an integral part of all of our lives, Candrive’s research aims to improve the safety of older drivers and to develop an easy to use tool for health care professionals to determine who might be at risk.
We’ve all seen and read the stories in the media about older drivers – the crash through a California market place, reversing into bus shelters, running red lights and stop signs. But are all older drivers dangerous? It’s true the crash rate per mile driven for drivers over the age of 70 is similar to the rate for younger drivers, but the overall collision rate for older drivers is among the lowest since older drivers tend not to drive as frequently. And while collisions involving younger drivers are more likely due to inexperience and risk-taking behaviour, for older drivers decreased driving ability is more likely the result of medical conditions or functional disabilities.
Should everyone of a certain age be forced to surrender their license, or have restricted licensing like young drivers? Should we be looking at health-related issues instead of aged-based reasons to re-test? In Ontario there is the requirement for mandatory visual and written tests after age 80 but actual road tests are a rarity. The cost and time to administer all this testing is expensive and will only continue to increase as the population ages. You’ve seen the stats – in another 30 years, 23% of the population will be over age 65.
There are many other questions to which no good answers exist. For example, how good are the many driver improvement programs? What about automotive re-design to accommodate older drivers’ abilities? What are the impacts of no longer driving? What are the alternate methods of transportation? Who should determine fitness to drive? What if we were able to keep drivers on the road longer and safer?
About five years ago, these and other questions were on the minds of Dr. Malcolm Man-Son-Hing, a scientist and geriatrician, and Dr. Shawn Marshall, a researcher and a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, both with the Ottawa Health Research Institute. Realising this was going to be a growing concern, they and some other research colleagues started Candrive (Canadian Driving Research Initiative for Vehicular Safety Enhancement), a driving research initiative to address the health related safety and quality of life issues for older drivers.
Candrive (www.candrive.ca) has worked hard to form partnerships with key seniors’ groups (CARP is one), research organizations and governmental and non-governmental agencies to develop political, legislative and moral support for their research agenda. Candrive has a Canada-wide interdisciplinary research network that is conducting studies to address such issues as the psychosocial, cultural, social and legal aspects of ensuring safety and quality of life for older drivers. Candrive has already influenced transportation policies and has the interest of international researchers and administrators.
Earlier this year Candrive received a large federal grant to continue its work by conducting a national study that will follow 1000 older drivers for five years. One of the results of the study will be the development of a simple, objective screening tool that will assist health-care professionals to identify the characteristics of safe and unsafe older drivers, and refer those deemed at risk for further assessment. This will alleviate many of the problems and inconsistencies doctors and families face in attempting to determine fitness to drive.