Facts and Issues

The Driving Picture in Ontario

  • There are approximately 8.1 million licensed drivers in Ontario
  • Approximately 1.9 million of Ontario’s licensed drivers (about 23 per cent of all drivers) are 55 years of age or older.
  • In 2000, there were about 443,000 drivers involved in collisions. Of those, 63,000, or 14 per cent were 55 years of age or older.
  • The percentage of drivers involved in collisions in the 55 and over age categories is lower than any other group.


Seniors and Safe Driving

Despite negative media reports on seniors who are involved in high profile driver incidents, older Canadians are safe drivers.

For example, in Ontario the number of collisions per 10,000 senior drivers continues to drop. In fact, the percentage of drivers in the 55 and older age group involved in collisions is lower than any other age group.

An Ontario Ministry of Transportation study, An Overview of Senior Driver Collision Risk, found that on a basis of kilometres driven, older drivers actually get into approximately the same number of accidents as their 16- to 24-year-old counterparts.

Other provinces have discovered the same trend. During the mid-1990s, in the aftermath of several high profile accidents involving seniors, Nova Scotia’s Seniors’ Secretariat established a Seniors’ Safe Driving Committee to study licensing privileges for seniors. Dr. Russell MacKinnon concluded that “there was a widely held notion that seniors were responsible for a disproportionate number of highway accidents…however, research, analysis and consultation within Nova Scotia, as well as other parts of Canada and the United States have revealed that notion to be incorrect.”

CARP founder and president Lillian Morgenthau concurs with these findings.

“The insurance industry recognizes that seniors are, in fact, generally safe drivers with good driving records and puts them in a preferred class…CARP’s driver insurance program has led the way in applying discounts to mature drivers over the age of 50.”

Facts and Figures on Aggressive Driving

In The Steel Alliance and Canada Safety Council’s 2002 Aggressive Driving Study (conducted by Thompson Lightstone & Co.) the following trends were identified:

 Younger drivers are more likely to drive aggressively than their older counterparts: 96 per cent of those aged 18-29 report committing at least one act of aggressive driving (vs. 90 per cent of those aged 30-49 and 82 per cent of those 50+).

 Of those surveyed, 68 per cent of men and 74 per cent of women believe the incidence of aggressive driver is increasing.

 Overall, 71 per cent of Canadians surveyed feel aggressive driving is on the rise.

 Those drivers surveyed aged 18-29 admit to driving while drowsy in the past year (72 per cent) more than those aged 30-49 (58 per cent) and aged 50+ (38 per cent).

What frustrates respondents the most is when they see other drivers: read (69 per cent) or use high tech devices like laptops and hand held-devices (67 per cent, followed by cell phone usage (62 per cent) and putting on make-up, shaving or combing hair (62 per cent).

Drive Wise and Combating the “frailty factor”

Although seniors are not involved in any more accidents than other age groups on a per capita basis, once involved in a traffic mishap they are at greater risk of serious injury or death.

In the 1998 Ontario Ministry of Transportation study, An Overview of Senior Driver Collision Risk, it was found that:

 Seniors who are involved in an accident are more likely to die from their injuries or take longer to recover; and  Although in 1996 seniors represented 11 per cent of the population, they accounted for 18 per cent of all fatalities and 6 per cent of injuries occurring on Canadians roadways.

“There isn’t any question, in the research there is what is know as the frailty factor that applies to senior drivers. They themselves are more likely to be killed in a collision. So when a collision is a fatality, it’s more likely the fatality is a senior driver – even though it may not even be their fault,” says Leo Tasca, team leader of special projects at Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation.

Dignity and Independence for Seniors

“Research has shown that the single greatest fear of most older people is that of becoming dependant,” wrote Irwin Bess, in “Seniors behind the wheel” in the Statistics Canada document Canadian Social Trends in 1999.

“Although independence can take many different shapes and forms, for the 3.4 million Canadians aged 65 or over, it often means having a car and being able to drive.”

“This reliance on a car for an active lifestyle is particularly true for those living in small towns and rural areas, where little or no public transit or special-needs transportation may be available.”

A Comparative: The American Scene

 According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 18.5 million licensed drivers age 70 and older in the United States in 1999 (the most recent data available).

 These older drivers made up 10 per cent of the total U.S. driving population, yet accounted for 13 per cent of all traffic fatalities, 12 per cent of vehicle occupant fatalities, and 17 per cent of pedestrian fatalities.

 Older drivers have higher rates of fatal crashes, based on miles/kilometres driven, than any other group except very young drivers. NHTSA predicts that the number of elderly driver traffic fatalities could triple by 2030.

 According to the New York-based Insurance Information Institute, “There is a growing need to help older drivers sharpen their skills as well as recognize their changing abilities and adapt their driving practices appropriately.”

 In 2000, 81 per cent of fatal accidents involving older drivers happened during the day. Seventy-six per cent involved another vehicle.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, about half of fatal crashes involving drivers 80 years and older occur at intersections and involve more than one vehicle. This compares with less than 30 per cent among drivers up to age 65.


Canada’s Association for the Fifty-Plus

Backgrounder on Drive Wise sponsor

Lillian Morgenthau and her husband Murray Morgenthau started CARP in 1984 around their kitchen table with ten friends. Today, close to 400,000 members support CARP’s mission to effectively promote and protect the rights and improve the quality of life of mature Canadians through advocacy, education, information, and CARP- recommended services and programs.

CARP stands for Canadian Association of Retired Persons. However, the name no longer describes CARP’s membership who are fifty years or older, retired or not. Hence, the new descriptor, Canada’s Association for the Fifty-Plus.

Independently, through national forums or commissioned studies, and in partnership with governments, agencies and other groups, CARP monitors how seniors are affected by age discrimination, driver licensing policies, a lack of affordable rental housing, availability of health care, mandatory retirement, transportation, scams and frauds, retirement income, environment – and more.

For more information on the Drive Wise program contact: Sgt. Bob Paterson, Caledon Detachment, Ontario Provincial Police (905) 857-3304 James Pasternak, Director of Communications, Canadian Centre for Community Relations (416) 398-8257 or drivewise@50plus.com


CARP and Drive Wise

Drive Wise is an OPP-delivered driver education seminar that offers attendees a shopping basket of succinct tips, suggestions and driving strategies, which are, in fact, preventive measures against the most likely causes of accidents and mishaps faced by older Canadians on the road. Senior drivers are the fastest growing demographic on today’s roads. Drive Wise is sponsored, in part, by CARP, Canada’s Association for the Fifty-Plus. (www.drivewise.ca). CARP believes that driver education and prevention will ensure the safety of seniors and preserve their right to drive. CARP also believes that with the growing number of older Canadians on today’s roads, there is an increasing validity and urgency for driver education.

CARP and Driver Safety

CARP believes that driver education will ensure the safety of seniors – and all drivers – and preserve their right to drive. CARP believes that with the growing number of seniors on today’s roads there is an increasing currency and urgency in driver education for seniors.

So CARP has partnered with Drive Wise, acting as both a sponsor and content advisor. And by working with its regional chapters, CARP is looking to expand Drive Wise across Canada.

“Drivers of all ages can benefit from driver education, including seniors. It can only make our roads a safer place for everyone. CARP’s long term objective is to make this a national strategy,” says Lillian Morgenthau, CARP’s founder and president.

Promoting the Rights of All Drivers

CARP has a rich history of fighting ageist government policies toward seniors. For example, CARP has been urging provincial and territorial governments to rescind licensing and enforcement practices that unfairly target older Canadians.

“The right to drive must be based on condition, not age. Anything else is ageism,” says CARP founder and President Lillian Morgenthau.

“If a person is capable of driving, they should be allowed to drive, regardless of their age.”

Putting restrictions on capable and responsible seniors can have a trickle effect, which will hurt others in society.

A large percentage of volunteers with cars who provide community-based services such as meals on wheels, friendly visiting and transportation for frail people are seniors. Seniors buy cars and maintain them – preventing them from doing so would have a negative impact on the economy. There is also the unhealthy psychological impact of losing one’s freedom and increased social isolation, should one lose their right to drive.

Driver Education programs reduce Fatalities and Ensures Seniors keep their Keys

“There are a lot of things individuals can do in preparation for these years when they are going to be under greater scrutiny by the Ministry,” says Leo Tasca, team leader of special projects at Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation. Therefore, CARP will be working with Drive Wise to ensure that seniors in particular and the population in general, can make it safely from “A” to “B” on increasingly congested roadways.

“It is our goal to ensure that as many drivers as possible have the skills necessary to drive safe, retain their license and preserve their freedom of mobility,” says CARP’s founder and president Lillian Morgenthau.