Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Crash spotlights elderly drivers

Girl, 10, badly hurt after motorist, 86, backs car into her

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A 10-year-old girl was walking home from school when she was hit by a car driven by an 86-year-old man. It seemed like a bizarre crash, with the car speeding backwards more than 50 metres through a bank parking lot when it struck the child, who was on a sidewalk.

Inevitably, the age of the driver will prompt public calls to make older drivers undergo mandatory driver testing.

But statistics show older drivers are no more at risk to cause accidents than other drivers.

Manitoba Public Insurance says it monitors the driving convictions of all drivers, regardless of age, and does not focus on older drivers.

"There is no mandatory retesting of older drivers (in Manitoba), and that is consistent with other jurisdictions," MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said.

Attorney General Andrew Swan said there is no need for mandatory retesting of elderly drivers, adding current policies require physicians and optometrists to report patients with medical conditions that could impair their ability to drive

The Tuesday collision occurred about 3:45 p.m. in the parking lot of a Bank of Montreal branch at the corner of McPhillips Street and Machray Avenue. Winnipeg police said an elderly driver was backing out of a parking stall at the side of the building when the car, still in reverse, sped the length of the lot.

The car struck a girl who was on the sidewalk, walking home from nearby Robertson School.

The force of the collision knocked the girl into the middle of Machray. The car stopped when it hit a tree beside the sidewalk, near the lot's Machray entrance.

"I could tell (the girl) was in a lot of pain... she was crying very loudly whenever the paramedics touched her," Bea Ilagan said.

She was visiting her mother, who lives across the street from the parking lot, when the accident happened.

Ilagan said the driver appeared uninjured but concerned for the girl's well-being. She said the driver remained at the scene about three hours, most of the time being questioned by police.

Ilagan said that at one point, the driver got back into the car and moved it to allow other vehicles to exit the lot.

The girl was taken to hospital in critical condition but her status was upgraded to stable but guarded Wednesday morning.

Smiley said although there are occasional public calls for mandatory retesting of older drivers, usually prompted by similar collisions, MPI does not pay special attention to older drivers.

Drivers of any age who have bad driving records will be subjected to a show-cause hearing that may restrict their driving, he said, adding in 80 to 85 per cent of those cases, the drivers are suspended.

MPI collision data from 2006-2010 show drivers 65 and older are involved in fewer collisions on average and fewer fatalities than all other age groups. For every 10,000 drivers, those 65 and older were involved in 286.8 collisions. The collision data show the younger the driver, the higher the collision rate.

CAA Manitoba says it does not have a policy on mandatory retesting for older drivers, but added it recently partnered with Safety Services Manitoba to hold classroom workshops aimed at mature drivers.

A 2007 study by a University of Calgary professor on driver retesting found there was no correlation between fatal crashes and drivers 65 and older.

The study did find older drivers were involved in more injury crashes, but likely because older drivers are more fragile and susceptible to injury.


-- With files from Bruce Owen


State of the seniors

Manitoba: Physicians and optometrists are required by law to report any patient whose ability to drive is impaired by a medical or life condition. Manitoba Public Insurance monitors the driving habits of all licensed drivers and can require motorists to attend a show-cause hearing if they rack up several traffic convictions or are at fault in a serious motor collision. Drivers caught driving 50 km/h above the posted speed limit get an automatic show-cause hearing.

Ontario: Requires drivers 80 and older to do a written test every two years and a regular vision test.

Alberta: Requires drivers 75 and older to have regular vision testing.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2012 A4

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