Medically At-Risk Older Drivers Community of Practice
The Medically At-Risk Older Drivers Community of Practice (CoP) worked 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).
The key mission of our Community of Interest (CoI) was 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 worked to develop a strategic plan for addressing this complex issue in Ontario.
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.