Seniors (Mature Drivers)
As the baby boomer generation ages, there will be an enormous shift in the demographics of society, including a dramatic difference in the age of licensed drivers and other road users. Many seniors are still driving well into their seventies and eighties as being able to do so can make a difference in maintaining a healthy, independent lifestyle. But, driving can become more of a risk as we age because our physical ability and mental fitness changes.
- Depth perception and ability to judge speed can deteriorate and some may find visibility at dusk and night to be a problem. Sensitivity to light and glare of oncoming traffic can make it difficult to see obstacles and signage.
- If flexibility is deteriorating, so can reaction times — it is important to have a full range of motion when driving. Stiffness can prohibit proper shoulder checks, or turning your head to look both ways for traffic.
- Some medications can increase driving risk as many have side effects, such as causing drowsiness.
- Decreasing mental capacity, like memory or ability to respond well in stressful situations, can lead to confusion and delayed reaction time when driving.
- A person’s ability to drive may also be jeopardised by injury, illness, disease, cognitive function and other conditions – the frequency, severity and risks of which increase with age. Although medical fitness issues can affect any age of driver, research shows they become more predominant in later life.
Have concerns about someone's fitness to drive?
You may start to notice some signs that make you wonder if an aging driver is becoming a risk to themselves, their passengers and other road users. Some signs are:
- changing lanes too quickly or without careful checking because their range of motion is limited
- applying the brakes or the accelerator abruptly
- showing confusion when navigating and unable to read roadway signs
- exhibiting frustration or anxiousness when driving
- reacting too slowly to situations like light signal changes, cars stopped in front of them, or stopping well in advance of pedestrians crossing a roadway
- finding damage on the vehicle or to items along the driveway like scrapes on fences, knocked over planters or dents in the garage door
It is possible that enrolment in a driving course could help eliminate some of these unsafe driving patterns; or suggesting some solutions like only driving in daylight hours and not driving during rush hour; having a vision and/or hearing test, seeing the doctor about medications that can cause drowsiness; suggesting alternative transportation (i.e., bus, taxi); but it may be time to discuss with the aging driver that the time is coming to stop driving. It is not an easy discussion to have with an aging driver and it is not an easy decision for an aging driver to give up their driver’s licence.
Driver Medical Examination Requirement
Because of the challenges aging can bring, it is requirement for all B.C. driver licence holders over the age of 80 – who hold a class 5 drivers licence – to have a Driver Medical Examination Report completed every two years if they wish to renew their driver’s licence. The form is sent to the driver’s registered address in advance of their 80th birthday and every two years thereafter.
BCAA Road Safety Foundation web pages offering support for seniors considering retiring from driving: