Sudbury, Ontario police have set up a tip line so residents can anonymously phone in to report elderly drivers they think are no longer fit to drive.
But critics say the program unfairly presumes seniors are, solely because of their age, unable to handle themselves on the road.
When police get an anonymous tip on the North East Dementia Network Coalition Safe Driving Task Force phone line via Crime Stoppers, they send out a plain clothes officer to talk to the motorist.
“So, say Jane Doe’s name is given. [We] will go to Jane Doe’s house, knock on the door and speak to her and follow up," the National Post quotes Sudbury Constable Meghan O’Malley. "Firstly, to see if the tip is valid, if there are some identified problems with driving and go from there.”
“There are many people who call us and say, ‘I have some concerns about my mom or my dad or family, friend, neighbour,’ but they don’t know who to go to. They don’t want to alienate that person, but they want to make sure that the person gets additional driving help or goes to the appropriate person to get whatever the problem is, fixed.”
The officer asks about the motorist's feelings on driving, and about their health, vision or hearing; the officer may suggest the motorist consult their doctor, or take a driving test.
Three people have been investigated since the task force was set up January 2013, says Patricia Douglas, chair of the Sudbury chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP). Two agreed to give up driving, and the other signed up for a driving test.
“Everybody should be safe on the road, [but] how do we make sure that’s the case? Our position has always been that there has to be a legitimate way of testing everybody’s skill to be able to drive on the road," says Susan Eng, vice-president for advocacy at CARP. "What they’re doing here is presuming that everyone who looks a certain age is, by definition, unable to drive.”
Eng suggests police employ a standardized driving test to determine whether an older motorist is fit to drive, and that they not rely on a family member's subjective judgment. She also says it may be traumatic for someone to have an officer show up at their door to criticize their driving, and this issue should be dealt with within family circles.
"There are roughly 2.8 million drivers in Canada over the age of 65," the National Post quotes Transport Canada. "Nearly 15 percent of drivers killed in a traffic accident are seniors, while those under the age of 24 account for roughly 23 percent."
(via National Post)