Medically At-Risk Older Drivers Community of Practice
The Medically At-Risk Older Drivers Community of Practice (CoP) works to promote the safety of older drivers behind the wheel. Driving safety is an important public health concern in Canada. While age alone is not a determinant of driving safety, we do know that with age there is an increased likelihood of experiencing a health-related change that can impact driving abilities.
In Ontario over the past 20 years, drivers over the age 65 have doubled from 600,000 to 1,200,000. Of particular concern is the sub-group of drivers in this age group who may not recognize their declining abilities (e.g., due to cognitive impairment) and do not come to the attention of licensing authorities or physicians. It is estimated that 100,000 drivers with dementia will be behind the wheel in this province by 2028 (Hopkins et al., 2004).
Concerns with public safety and efforts to restrict older drivers must be weighed against the personal impact of license forfeiture on mobility and independence. Occupational Therapists (OTs) are regulated health professionals that are legislated to perform the comprehensive driving evaluation (CDE) that can be required when medical fitness to drive has been questioned. However, we recognize that the OT role is much more than the CDE process.
The key mission of our Community of Interest (CoI) is to bring together Occupational Therapists, other interested regulated health professionals, older drivers and families as well as policy makers on the issue of medically at risk older drivers. This CoI will work to develop a strategic plan for addressing this complex issue in Ontario.
The Medically At-Risk Older Driver CoI membership is under development. Our aim is to bring together: researchers in this field; Occupational Therapists; Driving Instructors and Vehicle Modifiers (who work in concert with Ontario’s Driver Assessment Centres [DAC’s]); policy makers from the Ministry of Transportation and Seniors’ Secretariat, representatives from the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) and other interested parties.
Brenda Vrkljan, PhD, O.T. Reg. (Ont.)
Associate Professor, Occupational Therapy, McMaster University
905-525-9140 ext. 27817