More than half of Canadians plan to keep driving past age 80: survey

A study by State Farm suggests that many Canadians want to stay behind the wheel longer. Getty Images

Canadian drivers are reluctant to give up the wheel once they get older, a new survey by State Farm has found.

The insurance company polled 3,581 people of driving age across Canada in March 2017 to find that 55 per cent of respondents would keep driving past 80 years of age. About 29 per cent would give up their licence between ages 80-84, 16 per cent would stop driving before 90 years of age, while 10 per cent would keep driving after 90.

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Fewer Canadians said they would give up their licence before turning 80. Only 6 per cent would stop before 70, 17 per cent before 75 and 22 per cent by 79.

However, respondents said they would give up their rights to driving earlier if specific concerns were raised: 94 per cent would stop if a medical professional advised it, 27 per cent if family members were worried, 14 per cent would stop driving after a collision, and four per cent if they revived a traffic ticket.

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State Farm highlighted that reluctance to give up driving may be a concern for Canada’s aging population. The company noted its findings that one in 10 Canadians say they’ve been in a collision involving a senior.

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Respondents to the survey said they’re concerned senior drivers may not be able to see the road clearly and have problems with reflexes.

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But giving up a driver’s licence can be life-changing, specifically for Canadians who fear they’ll lose their independence (75 per cent).

According to a 2009 Statistics Canada survey, 3.5 million senior Canadians still drive, with 200,000 of them over 80. The survey noted that the number is expected to rise dramatically as the population ages.

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In 2011, a report by Transport Canada found that drivers older than 65 represented 17 per cent of car collision deaths, but made up only 14 per cent of licensed drivers.

However, it noted that age should not be the only indication of whether someone should continue driving.

“A balance has to be maintained between the mobility of seniors and road safety,” the report noted.

State Farm spokesman John Bordignon agrees that the issue is more complex than age.

“We don’t think there should be a cut-off age,” he said, explaining that such a “blanket statement” would ignore unique health circumstances.

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“What we’re hoping for is to drive conversations among families,” Bordignon said, adding that medical professionals should be consulted for advice.

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Administering driving licences in Canada is up to provinces. Seniors are generally required to retake tests as they hit certain age milestones.

In Ontario, for example, drivers over 80 need to renew their license every two years. At the renewal, they must take a vision test, take part in classes on driving rules, and pass a driving history check. Some drivers may need to retake a driving test and submit medical information.

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