McGill researcher leads national team
Seniors are the fastest growing segment of the driving population and driving is vital to their independence. Yet older driver mortality and morbidity is on the rise. The leading cause of accidental deaths for persons 65 to 75 years old in Canada today is driving-related accidents. More specifically, individuals older than 75 have a 3.5 times higher crash rate compared to 35- to 44-year-old drivers.
“Initiatives to make roads safer for all, such as promoting the use of seatbelts and reducing drunk driving, have had much success,” said Dr. Nicol Korner-Bitensky, a professor at McGill University ’s Faculty of Medicine, School of Physical and Occupational Therapy. “ Now we need an innovative and proactive approach to enhance safety for Canada ’s older drivers . W ith the senior population on the rise, it is projected that by 2040 there will be almost double the number of older drivers in Canada.”
As a first step in reducing injuries and deaths among older drivers, the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) today launched in Ottawa The National Blueprint for Injury Prevention in Older Drivers. The Blueprint was developed by a CAOT project team led by McGill’s Dr. Korner-Bitensky, with the input and assistance of a 21-member National Advisory Committee. Financial support was provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada. TheBlueprint outlines a vision and identifies directions for action for promoting safe driving among older drivers in Canada .
To obtain a wide-ranging perspective, the project team solicited input from various stakeholders across Canada , held focus groups of older drivers to identify their perceived need for driver refresher programs and conducted a scientific review of studies on existing refresher programs in the world, among other things.
“The Blueprint strategy is motivated, among other things, by the recognition that while driving is a privilege, mobility is a right for all Canadians,” explained Dr. Claudia von Zweck, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists.
“The goal of the Blueprint is to identify and encourage a comprehensive strategy that enhances the capacity of older adults to maintain their fitness to drive for as long as possible thus enabling them to participate in the activities that bring meaning and purpose to their lives,” said Dr. Korner-Bitensky, Principal Investigator for the Blueprint. “Older adults we interviewed across the nation from Victoria to Fredericton tell us that driving is important not only for their own independence but for the many family members and friends they help out by volunteering to drive those who cannot drive.”
The Blueprint is aimed at older drivers, occupational therapists, physicians and other healthcare professionals, national and local seniors’ agencies, community groups, transportation departments, insurance and automobile industries, traffic safety professionals and policy makers at all levels of government as a strategy to reduce crashes among older drivers.
About the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT)
CAOT is the national non-profit professional organization that represents more than 12,000 occupational therapists. As a professional group, occupational therapists are concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation such as self-care, work, study, volunteerism and leisure. For more information on occupational therapy or to download the Older Driver Blueprint, visit www.caot.ca . To find an occupational therapist in your community, visit www.otworks.ca and click on OT Finder.
About McGill University
McGill University , founded in Montreal , Quebec , in 1821, is Canada ’s leading post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 10 professional schools, 300 programs of study and more than 34,000 students. McGill attracts students from more than 160 countries around the world. Almost half of McGill students claim a first language other than English – including 6,000 francophones – with more than 6,200 international students making up almost 20 per cent of the student body. For more information about McGill University , visit www.mcgill.ca.
About the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)
The creation of the PHAC marks the beginning of a new approach to federal leadership and collaboration with provinces and territories on efforts to renew the public health system in Canada and support a sustainable health care system. PHAC works closely with provinces and territories to keep Canadians healthy and help reduce pressures on the health care system. For more information about PHAC, visit www.phac-aspc.gc.ca .
* ( Canada Safety Council, 2005)