Health & Wellness

How Old Is Too Old to Drive?

By Lola Augustine Brown

Remember the incredible sense of freedom that you felt when you finally got your drivers’ licence? Imagine what it might feel like to have that taken away from you. According to a recent survey, it seems that many Canadian seniors don’t want to think about giving up their licences, or to talk about it.

More than half of the Canadian drivers surveyed—55%—said they expect to keep driving until they’re 80 or older; one in four (26%) don’t expect to give up their licences until they’re 85 or older, and 10% are confident that they’ll be motoring along until they’re at least 90.

According to Transport Canada stats from 2011, drivers aged 65 plus represent 17% of road fatalities, even though only 14% of licensed drivers are in that age group. Of the more than 3,500 drivers polled by State Farm Canada, almost all—94%—said that you should talk with an older family member about giving up his or her licence if you have concerns about safety, but only one third had ever had that talk—and almost 80% of those who had raised the subject said they ran into resistance.

“These are extremely difficult discussions for families to have,” said John Bordignon of State Farm Canada.

While 94% of respondents 65 or older said that they’d give up driving on the advice of a medical professional, only 27% said they’d be swayed by a concerned family member or friend.

It’s not just a matter of pride: 74% of those surveyed said their primary concern about losing their licences was the loss of independence involved; only 6% cited a lack of available public transit options and 4%, the cost of taxis.

“To make the transition easier,” Bordignon says, “it’s important for family members to have supportive conversations early on and explore transportation alternatives over time, so that changes in lifestyle come gradually.”

Given the overwhelming number of older respondents who said they would listen to advice from a medical professional, if you need to raise the subject with a parent or loved one, you might want to involve the family doctor.

Photo: iStock/Toa55.