December 6, 2007

New national project aims to reduce crashes involving older drivers

Ottawa, Ontario – 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; driving is vital to their independence, but older driver mortality and morbidity is on the rise. Currently, the leading cause of accidental deaths for persons 65 to 75 years old in Canada is driving-related crashes; more specifically, individuals over 75 years of age have a crash rate 3.5 times higher than 35- to 44-year-olds. It is projected that by 2040 there will be almost double the number of older drivers in Canada as there are now.

“We are thrilled that this project is addressing assessments and enhanced safety for Canada’s older drivers,” said Dr. Korner-Bitensky. “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 of Canadian physicians, over 40 per cent reported that they do not feel they are the most qualified professionals to evaluate an older driver’s fitness, nor do they feel confident in their ability to make an accurate assessment. Over 80 per cent 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 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. It will include a vision, guiding principles, priority goals and identified directions for action.

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