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Are we better drivers at 60 than we are at 30?

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 9:38 AM -

According to the CAA, the amount of outdoor light begins to affect our vision as we approach our 60s.

“As we age, some vision changes occur and people are more likely to have their eyes tested for reading glasses or other vision-related issues. Most provinces have rules that kick in at the age of 80 which seems to be the age that a “check-in” is deemed best,” says Teresa Di Felice, Director of Government and Community Relations and Driver Training, CAA South Central Ontario.


Nationally in Canada, re-testing for your license begins at 80-years-old, in the US, the re-testing age ranges from 70-80 and in the Netherlands the process begins as early as 60.

“Between the ages of 20 and 60, there might be only a slight decline in a person’s vision. Between the ages of 40 and 50, the lens inside the eye slowly begins to become cloudy, causing both a reduction in the amount of light and an increase in the glare that hits the retina,” according Dr. Jeff Goodhew, an optometrist who is currently serving VP of the Ontario Association of Optometrists.

If our vision can begin to change so much sooner than the age at which we are required to re-test, would it not be safer to ask people to re-test sooner? It does seem logical, but let’s also keep in mind an interesting fact, “The average at-fault fatal collision rate for drivers 60+ has been in line with that of drivers aged 30-69, and lower than the average at-fault fatal collision rate for drivers of all ages,” according to Ajay Woozageer, Senior Bilingual Media Liaisons Officer for the Ministry of Transportation.

It is a fact of life that as we age our mobility, response time and vision deteriorate, and these changes are subjective to each and every individual differently. Risk factors contributed to an individual under the age of 30 and those over the age of 69 do vary, but “…seniors generally have an abundance of driving skill and experience and are not predisposed to risk-taking behaviour. However, laboratory and field experiments have consistently shown that senior drivers are more likely to experience cognitive degeneration and loss of functional abilities compared to drivers in other age categories,” according to Woozageer.

Fatal At-Fault Collision Involvement Rates By Driver’s Age, 2002-2010, drivers of light duty vehicles only

(Graph provide by Ajay Woozageer, Senior Bilingual Media Liaison Officer Ministry of Transportation)

(Graph provide by Ajay Woozageer, Senior Bilingual Media Liaison Officer Ministry of Transportation)

It comes down to the individual driver any knowing your limits, “Many people with different physical conditions can still drive. Our vision helps our ability to take in information and to react. But deteriorating vision can also be dealt with through proper medical attention such as medication, prescription glasses, surgery, etc.” says Di Felice.

In Canada, a variety of services are offered to individuals and their families to take the initiative and be proactive as we age and continue to drive. The MTO offers the Ontario’s 80 and Over Senior Driver’s Licence Renewal Program, “meant to promote road safety and is not intended to target drivers of a certain age,” says Woozageer. The CAA has created a Senior Driving Tool website that, “provides useful information, makes the public aware of how aging can affect driving and how to be safe behind the wheel,” says Di Felice.

A variety of courses for seniors are provided nationally and internationally to brush up on skills, and learn newer ones to help the senior generation adapt to the current traffic flow and road conditions. Best practice according to Di Felice is, “don't take the skill of driving for granted. A skill needs refreshing and there are many mental and physical activities to help us in the task of driving.” Although our vision and reaction times begin to change as we approach our 60s, we aren’t any more likely to cause an accident than in our 30s. Use the tools available to keep yourself safe on the roads.

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