The Business News Source for the Community of Sarnia - Lambton

Legions of aging boomers behind the wheel

Pete Aarssen's picture
Tue, 10/31/2017 - 14:06 -- Pete Aarssen

I take pleasure in dispelling the myth being spread by a major car insurance provider about the emerging dangers presented by a growing and greying population of Canadian drivers to all of our safety on the road. Their supposition is nothing more than unadulterated bigotry and active ageism - my opinion. In fairness to the good work that they do in other insurance related categories, I won’t name them. This company suggests that seniors, as they increase in the percentage of drivers numbered on our highways constitute a menace to society, a danger to be feared and you can imagine a category of drivers whom they might soon charge a premium from to be insured! After all, Boomers remain the largest segment of our population and will all be elders by definition soon. This is not the entire truth, far from it in fact, statistics report our younger years remain the most concerning category; ages 16-25 to be exact. MADD lists sadly and accurately that “more 19 year olds die or are seriously injured than any other age group.” We all know that statistics can be selectively presented to defend almost anything. This otherwise reputably insurance firm seems to be exploiting a genuine but modest trend in driving fatalities among people aged 65 to 80 and overstates them as being a profound risk to all drivers. The facts: “Young people have the highest rates of traffic death and injury per capita among all age groups and the highest death rate per kilometer driven among all drivers under 75 years of age,” MADD writes on its statistics page. It continues… “16-25 year olds constituted 13.6% of the population in 2010, but made up almost 33.4% of the impairment-related traffic deaths.”  This car insurance firm reports that collisions involving a senior citizen are rising. True; as are the number of seniors as a percentage of our total population. The company fairly points out the link between age and impairment from illness and medication. It isn’t just illicit drugs and alcohol alone that can make one an impaired driver, so can serious medical conditions, medication and the consequences of a person of any age suffering from visual or hearing impairment. These justifiable concerns warrant a continued conversation about effective screening to ensure adequately vet drivers of any age group. Most provinces already subject older drivers to a mandatory written test every two years (after a designated age) and doctors in Ontario are required to report conditions that impair one’s ability to drive safely. My mother and mother-in-law both just participated in this necessary but somewhat daunting experience. They passed with flying colours by the way! The insurance firm states: “Canadians are conflicted when it comes to the balance between road safety and the autonomy associated with driving.” This is most certainly an accurate observation yet we are incidentally nowhere near the need for an exaggerated alarm bell to be rung statistically speaking. Anyone not yet a senior (a senior is anyone over the age of 65; an elder is anyone over the age of 55) cannot appreciate the need for personal independence when separated geographically from goods and services and from loved ones who might otherwise be of help. This is an emerging phenomenon that this column cannot fully explore but one that is taking place must more modestly than are the negative consequences being reported. In a 2011 report, Transport Canada stated that drivers aged 65 and over represent 17% of fatalities though they only account for 14% of licensed drivers.” This is a slight proportionate and negative trend; from an age perspective. While not good news, the sky is by no way starting to fall. We have all been stuck behind a painfully cautious elder driver but that is   the good news; speed kills, ask a police constable. A longer more sensitive and statistically more balanced look at the risks presented to all of us by any age group must be done before all elders are painted with the same proverbial brush.


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