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How old is too old to drive? Researchers ponder the question
TORONTO -- The same regulation that can put an experienced commercial driver out to pasture at 65, has vastly different rules for other classes of drivers. Holders of class G or M licenses -- automobile or motorcycle drivers -- need undergo vision and knowledge tests every two years beginning at age 80, and a road test only if the driving record or medical testing deem the driver to be at risk. If you're a 70 year-old automobile or motorcycle driver who has been convicted of a collision-related offence, you'll be subject to vision, knowledge, and road testing before you're on your way again. Even holders of a class D license (straight trucks), are subject to the annual road test only at age 80. (Be sure to also check out this week's exclusive feature story -- Out to Pasture -- on the homepage of, which takes a closer look at how Ontario's retest rule is seemingly at odds with the available science).

Time is critical for all truckers, but Ontario drivers approaching
65 are forced to pay a little more attention to the hour glass
Ontario's age-only trigger leaves the experts scratching their heads. The U.S. Transportation Research Board (TRB) has a "Safe Mobility of Older Persons Committee" that provides a forum for researchers and practitioners to share research and information on improving the safety and mobility of older drivers. According to Richard Pain, TRB's Transportation Safety Coordinator in Washington, one of the problems researchers have is defining just what an "older driver" is. "We simply don't use age as a starting point for any research," says Pain. "It's all based on physical and mental health and/or medical conditions." If pushed to put a number to "old," Pain admits it's generally in the 75-80 range before it even registers on their radar screen. In Canada, as elsewhere, there is growing awareness of the major long-term challenges governments face in meeting the transportation needs of an aging population. CCMTA has recently developed an ambitious aging-driver strategy that acknowledges mobility is necessary to preserve social, mental, and physical health and well-being, and points out that giving up one's driver license can be one of the most significant events in an individual's life, symbolizing for many the loss of independence and rejection from 'adult' society. The comprehensive strategy, while it is completely silent on issues related to commercial drivers and the trauma associated with losing one's livelihood, says OBAC's Ritchie, is clear in its assertion that government policies and programs must be, among other things, fitness-based, not age-based. "It boggles the mind how Ontario continues to stand alone in ignoring, in the case of class A commercial drivers, the growing body of scientific and medical evidence that the aging process varies from person to person, and the correct measure of fitness to drive is functional ability, not age," Ritchie adds.
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