Saturday, May 27, 2017

Licencing Issues for Seniors

One of the workshops I give is on Licencing Issues for Seniors. In BC when a person reaches 80, they have to go in for a medical assessment to see if they are still able to drive.  As one ages, specific functions related to driving skills may be impaired. These functions include vision, hearing, sensation, and cognitive and motor abilities. For example, a decline in peripheral vision may affect the ability to pass approaching vehicles safely, and the decreased range of motion in an older person's neck may impair the ability to look behind when backing up. In addition, reaction time decreases by almost 40 percent on average from age 35 to 65. 

The aging process may also affect cognitive skills. Short-term memory loss, for instance, can impair driving skills by interfering with a person's ability to process information efficiently when merging with traffic or changing lanes. Such difficulties are magnified when the older driver performs these driving skills under stressful conditions. The higher incidence of cognitive impairment, particularly dementia, among older adults produces an increased risk of accident involvement. 

As a group, persons age 65 and older are relatively safe drivers. Although they represent 14 percent of all licensed drivers, they are involved in only 8 percent of police-reported crashes and 11 percent of fatal crashes. This can be compared to drivers age 16 to 24, who are involved in 26 percent of police-reported crashes and 26 percent of fatal crashes, but represent only 14 percent of licensed drivers.

In fact, drivers age 65 and older have a lower rate of crash involvement per 1,000 licensed drivers than any other age group. They also drive fewer miles on average than any other age group.

When drivers over 65 are involved in crashes, the situations and reasons are generally different from those associated with crashes involving younger drivers. For older drivers, the situations in which crashes occur most frequently are when they are turning left, whereas for younger drivers, crashes occur most often while they are driving on a straight road or highway. The errors most often involved in older driver crashes are failing to yield right of way or not responding properly to stop signs and traffic lights. By comparison, the errors most frequently made by younger drivers are related to speed or to following too close.

Among all drivers age 65 and older, it is the oldest drivers who pose more risk to themselves and to public safety. For all adults age 25 to 64, and for adults age 65 to 69, the rate of crashes per miles driven is relatively constant. The rate begins to rise at age 70, and increases rapidly at age 80.

Older persons may also regulate their own driving behavior. They may stop driving or limit driving to accommodate their individual declining capabilities. On average, persons age 65 and older drive substantially fewer miles than drivers in any younger age group.

In addition, older drivers often adopt different travel patterns, driving shorter distances, driving less at night, and avoiding rush hours, major highways, and bad weather conditions.

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