The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) has announced the launch of its National Blueprint for the Injury Prevention of Older Drivers project. The initiative, led by Dr. Nicol Korner-Bitensky of McGill University with the support of the Public Health Agency of Canada, will result in a strategy intended to reduce crashes that involve older drivers.
Seniors are the fastest growing segment of the driving population and driving is vital to their independence. Yet, older driver mortality and morbidity is on the rise. The leading cause of accidental deaths for persons 65 to 75 years old in Canada today is driving-related accidents. More specifically, individuals over 75 have a 3.5 times higher crash rate compared to 35 to 44 year olds (Canada Safety Council, 2005). With the senior population on the rise, it is projected that by 2040 there will be almost double the number of older drivers in Canada.
“We are thrilled that this project is addressing assessments and enhanced safety for Canada’s older drivers,” said Dr. Nicol Korner-Bitensky, professor at McGill University, Faculty of Medicine and project researcher. “It is important to stress that this is not about taking away older drivers’ freedom to drive, but rather an emphasis on injury prevention and increased health and well-being.” In a recent survey that we conducted of physicians in Canada, over 40% reported that they do not feel they are the most qualified professionals to evaluate the fitness of an older driver, nor do they feel confident in their ability to make an accurate assessment. Over 80% of respondents indicated that education on evaluating older driver fitness would be beneficial.
CAOT will be working with a variety of stakeholders including older drivers and their families, health care professionals, driving evaluators, and policy-makers to conduct their research and address health needs for older drivers. The Older Driver Blueprint will focus on sustained action with the ultimate aim of promoting safe driving and injury prevention among older drivers and will include a vision, guiding principles, priority goals, and identified directions for action.
CAOT has chosen to launch this project during National Safe Driving Week – an awareness initiative by the Canada Safety Council that focuses on safe driving.