Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Evidence lacking

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Many jumped to condemn what seemed obvious, when a 97-year-old driver crashed on Inkster Boulevard Thursday. She died, and the drivers of the two trucks involved suffered minor injuries. Lucky for them -- and some people jumped to argue the elderly should not drive.

But targeting certain drivers for unusual restrictions needs evidence to support the discrimination. People with health issues that impair driving ability are subject to evaluation, suspension or cancellation of privileges. The woman who died was driving erratically and is believed to have had a heart attack.

Manitoba Public Insurance does not have good data to show whether the elderly are a greater or lesser risk on the road when driving.

MPI's accident data compare the frequency of collisions by age cohorts. Young drivers are most often in accidents; the older the cohort, the fewer the collisions. The data do evaluate risk exposure, which requires measuring collisions against the time of day and the distance someone drives. Older people don't drive as much, and may be avoiding rush hour. Collision data may be reflecting this, rather than skill.

Australia's 2005 analysis found the elderly pose a higher risk when they drive fewer than 3,000 kilometres per year -- kind of like the surgical team that does one quadruple bypass a year. Canada's transportation administrators should be collecting this data. Until the proof is in, arbitrarily yanking driving privileges from the elderly would be unfair, and unconstitutional.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2013 A8

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